Have the Best Benefits Open Enrollment Ever

by Jolean Fleck

Open enrollment can be a stressful time for employees and HR professionals alike. Educating employees on how their choices will affect them and their families is important when it comes to making decisions like how much to contribute to a 401K, or if a high deductible health plan is the best option. To help your company have a successful open enrollment, I’m sharing some of my tried-and-true tips to engage and educate your employees.

Talk About Benefits All Year Long
If you’ve waited until open enrollment to begin educating employees on your benefit offerings, you’ve missed an opportunity to boost engagement throughout the year and make open enrollment that much easier. Partner up with your broker, vendors or other experts to organize lunch-and-learns, health fairs and informational content for your employees year-round. Connect with your marketing team to ensure your internal communications are engaging, effective and professional. This will lighten the load during open enrollment season.

Benefits and wellness events, such as health fairs and lunch-and-learns, do not have to be boring. I try to spice them up and engage employees with activities or challenges to do during the event. A scavenger hunt to collect answers to benefits-related questions or a passport that needs to be stamped by each carrier’s representative can be easy and fun. Hold drawings or raffles for employees who complete certain tasks or answer questions. Prizes can include:

  • Paid half-day off work
  • Gift cards to common lunch spots around the office
  • Tickets to local sporting events
  • A gift basket full of healthy snacks
  • Reserved primo parking spot

Setting up a wellness program to encourage employees to maintain healthy habits throughout the year is also a great way to keep benefits top of mind. Create a checklist for employees with items that benefit their overall health. You may even want to provide an incentive to employees who complete all the tasks! Expand your definition of “wellness” to include “employee well-being,” which encompasses things such as psychological/emotional health, financial wellness, social/community happiness, and career and intellectual health.

Educate. Engage. Enroll.
No matter how robust and sophisticated your internal communications are throughout the year, you’ll still need to bring a strong information-sharing game during open enrollment. Questions and uncertainty are common, even if you’re making minimal changes to your plan. Give careful thought to how you’re going to present the information and consider utilizing a variety of mediums to engage the maximum number of employees. Here are a few tips to keep in mind:

  • Written pieces should be succinct and clear. Max out on illustrations or charts that highlight differences between plans features. Lay out step-by-step instructions for how to complete the open enrollment process. Make sure your detail-oriented people know where to look for more in-depth information.
  • Schedule in-person meetings to accommodate every shift and location. Some of your employees will want to ask questions in-person and talk through each plan with you. Take advantage of tools like GoToMeeting or Skype to connect with remote employees. Your HR team should be highly visible during open enrollment season.
  • Partner with vendors and other experts to assist with open enrollment informational meetings and events. In my experience, it’s best to hold at least one event each year to support open enrollment. While it’s important for your HR team to talk with employees about benefits, it’s even more effective to bring in experts who can dive deep on the details of each offering.

If your employees are engaged throughout the process, they are less likely to wait until the last minute to submit their enrollment decisions. Your employees will feel more confident in their choices and understand how to best use their benefits throughout the year.

Tips to Help You Prepare
HR leaders, especially at smaller organizations like mine, can have a wide variety of duties. If it’s been a hectic year, open enrollment can quickly sneak up on you. Don’t wait until it’s too late to book carriers or experts to exhibit at your benefits or health fair. As soon as one year’s open enrollment is completed, I start booking the speakers, carriers and exhibitors right away for the coming year.

If you’re going to host a themed event for next year’s open enrollment, decide upon that theme early. This will give you time to purchase the prizes, develop themed materials and order food. Planning early can also help your employees. Once you set the date, block off time on your employees’ calendars so they don’t double-book over the event. If your company has an intranet or employee portal, you can also promote the event there. When you promote the event, be sure to tease the prizes and incentives to excite your employees!

Important Take-Aways
Every organization has different needs when it comes to open enrollment. Take these ideas and tailor them to your workforce. If you don’t know the needs of your workforce, this is a good time to dial in and listen to the struggles your employees may be having. Support your employees through open enrollment to make sure they feel confident in their choice of benefits as well as their choice of employer.

[The 2019 Open Enrollment Period runs from November 1, 2018, to December 15, 2018.]

Jolean Fleck, MBA, SPHR, SHRMSCP, is the director of human resources at Delta Dental of Arizona. An experienced talent manager, Fleck has spent more than 20 years delivering HR solutions across diverse industries that align with business strategy and provide an enriching employee experience. Delta Dental of Arizona is the leading dental benefits provider in Arizona, serving more than 1.2 million enrollees and more than 3,500 contracted dentists across the state for more than 45 years.

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