Improve Your Open Enrollment Process

Updated October 2021. First published September 2019.

Many organizations have a January 1st benefits renewal date. As a result, starting in September, we help them assess the effectiveness of their current plans and their available options.

A crucial step in this process is a market analysis, which ensures that the benefits offered are still well-positioned against other organizations of the same size, budget, and industry. Therefore, a comprehensive benefits analysis is essential, especially for companies with high turnover or difficulty attracting suitable candidates.

Assessing staff satisfaction as well as actively engaging employees in the benefits decisions are also key steps. We collect feedback from the team throughout the year, but we may ask more questions before making a renewal decision. For example, we could decide to roll out a benefits survey to understand how your employees’ needs and their dependents are being met. We also use this opportunity to reassess the effectiveness of the enrollment and ongoing services processes and if technology can be incorporated to improve them.

These stages are vital if you want to ensure you are investing your funds properly. By just renewing the current plans you offer or only looking at your increasing benefits costs or fringe rate, you may be locking yourself to another year of staff dissatisfaction. There can be a disconnect between current team expectations and needs versus what they valued highly in the past. Note - If you have a diverse group that includes up to five generations in the workplace, this process may be more challenging. Not everyone will share the same expectations and needs, so offering a variety of benefits will be critical.

Once the renewal decisions are made, it is time to strategically communicate and roll out the benefits program to your team. Many employees may not be confident in choosing the right health plan and feel overwhelmed when receiving emails with multiple attachments and instructions. Bringing your brokers to present the information may also not be enough.

What else can you do to engage your staff during open enrollment?

  • Be transparent. Share the decision and data that you collected. Inform them about your process and why you decided to renew your current offerings.

  • Is your team comfortable with technology? Consider moving your enrollment process to an online self-service tool. Enrollment forms are no longer required by most insurance companies, as long as your team continues electing their contributions and plans.

  • Do most of your staff members communicate through Slack, Teams, or other chat tools? Email may not be the best way to attract their attention. Instead, make announcements and remind them of open enrollment and deadlines using the system that they prefer and use the most.

  • Offer office hours instead of long presentations. Summarize the information for them, add visuals and allow those who have further questions to share them with you at an agreed time and day.

  • Leverage internal partners, such as your marketing or design team, to communicate with your staff in a more engaging, creative, and visual way. An example could be coming up with gift bags to disseminate the information.

  • Prepare a benefits guide or flyer with the essential plan features that they need to consider. Summary plan descriptions can be confusing for some staff to understand. Instead, recap the information and provide it to the team in a more digestible way.

  • Did you try something different this year? Ask for feedback right after the open enrollment process ends and when your group may have it fresh in their minds.

  • Did you ask for feedback? Then don’t forget to keep suggestions in mind next time around. You don’t want to create survey fatigue, which your team can feel if they don’t see their responses were considered.

Reach out to Kiwi Partners' HR Services team to strategize and plan for an effective and engaging open enrollment process.