2020 Has Been a Year of Change — Open Enrollment Will Be No Different

by Lina Tonk

Before the coronavirus pandemic, many employers were still relying on outdated methods for open enrollment, requiring endless stacks of paperwork and small windows of time for employees to choose benefits. Add in a worldwide health crisis, and the process of open enrollment has become that much more complicated. In fact, for small and midsize businesses, addressing employee benefits inquiries and changes was cited as one of the top challenges for HR during COVID-19.

With more than 57% of people saying their benefits package is more important to them than ever before, how can employers and business owners ensure that their workers are on track for open enrollment and are properly set up for 2021? New technologies are available to help employers manage benefits and streamline processes while keeping their workers safe and compliant during an already stressful time. From FSAs to reimbursement plans, employees and employers alike can be well-equipped for open enrollment.

How Has the Pandemic Changed Open Enrollment?
Many small and midsize employers have flipped their open enrollment script due to the pandemic.

In a lot of cases, employers are conducting benefits seminars virtually rather than in person. That’s because many workers haven’t returned to the office or are mostly working remotely. Some employers also are setting up virtual chats to let employees ask real-time questions about benefits.

Additionally, many employers are leaning more heavily on a virtual enrollment process. That might include electronic delivery of benefits documents that in the past had been handed out at in-person meetings. In other instances, benefits documents are being mailed to employees’ homes.

Furthermore, some employers are switching from active enrollment to passive environment this year to simplify the process. As explained by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), active enrollment refers to an employee proactively signing up for health insurance and other benefits for the coming year, while passive enrollment allows current benefit selections to automatically roll over unless an employee decides to change them.

Which Benefits Are Most Important to Employees?
The pandemic has sharpened the focus on employee benefits. This year, employees are putting great emphasis on benefits such as:

  • Telemedicine
  • Mental health resources
  • On-site clinics
  • Dental coverage
  • Vision coverage
  • Disability insurance
  • Critical illness coverage
  • Employer-subsidized childcare
  • More flexible hours
  • More vacation time
  • Work-from-home options
  • Student loan assistance
  • Tuition assistance
  • Paid parental leave

Employers should not dismiss the benefit wish lists of their employees.

That’s because employees are placing a premium on benefits in the wake of the pandemic. In a summertime survey by Prudential Financial, 77% of workers said benefits make up a key part of their compensation, up from 67% a year earlier. Meanwhile, 73% said benefits would be a big driver of staying at a job, compared with 59% a year earlier.

Perhaps most eye-opening is this statistic from the Prudential Financial survey: Fifty-two percent of workers indicated they’d be willing to take a chance on a new job now if it provided better benefits.

How Can Technology Play a Key Role in Open Enrollment?
So, we’re in the middle of a pandemic. Workforces are scattered. Some folks are back to the workplace. Many others are still working from home. And, oh, by the way, it’s open enrollment season.

Sounds like a recipe for chaos, doesn’t it? Well, it doesn’t have to be.

The right technology platform can help you better manage an enrollment season that’s unlike any we’ve ever seen. Research by insurance and consulting company Gallagher shows that 69% of U.S. employers had targeted investment in HR technology platforms by 2022, but the pandemic has sped up that timetable.

As part of a robust HR technology package, benefit services technology can support open enrollment by offering specifics about various benefits (such as FSAs, HSAs and HRAs) and supplying open enrollment guides and kits — all in one convenient place. These tools can educate both employers and employees about open enrollment, an often-confusing process that the pandemic has jumbled even more.

Those resources can free up HR professionals to answer detailed questions about benefits and can give employees peace of mind about the benefits that are available to them. All the while, everyone in the company can be virtually informed about open enrollment, helping ensure that the entire workforce is safe and is complying with social-distancing protocols.

Lina Tonk is VP of Marketing at isolved, a leader in employee experience. A B2B marketer for more than 15 years, Tonk leads isolved’s marketing communications and channel group to strategically accelerate the company’s next phase of growth with high-energy execution. Tonk’s day-to-day work impacts owned, earned and paid media, and she has a passion for positively influencing company culture and sales and marketing synergies.

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