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Improve Your Open Enrollment Process

Many nonprofits have a January 1st benefits renewal date. As a result, starting in Q3, we help organizations assess their current plans’ effectiveness and available options.

A crucial step in the open enrollment 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.

The Great Resignation, the Great Reshuffle, and the COVID-19 pandemic highlighted the importance of employee benefits and perks. In these trying times, employees look for wellness, financial security, and work-life balance. These are some main areas to do a deeper dive in to retain and attract candidates and employees.

Assessing staff satisfaction and 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 roll out a benefits survey to understand how your employees’ and their dependents’ needs 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 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 into 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 - This process may be more challenging if you have a diverse group that includes up to five generations in the workplace. Some people will share different 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 feel overwhelmed when receiving emails with multiple attachments and instructions and may need additional assistance in choosing the right health plan. Bringing your brokers to present the information is a good start, but we also recommend taking the following steps 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. Most insurance companies no longer required enrollment forms, 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 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 more engagingly, creatively, and visually with your staff. An example could be coming up with gift bags to disseminate the information.

  • Prepare a benefits guide or flyer with the essential plan features 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 considered.

  • Consider hosting a virtual benefits fair. These offer a wide array of possibilities for connecting with employees and allow organizations to try new things, such as an online employee resource center, rolling expert panels, and interactive benefits quizzes. They can also reach employees across multiple locations, including hybrid workers, remote workers, and prospective employees.

  • Assign a point of contact, so employees know who to reach out to with questions or concerns.

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

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