BY GLYNIS ROBERTS
Just the thought of an approaching open enrollment period can cause stress for employers and their workers. But with proper planning and a well-developed strategy, open enrollments can be organized, effective and a positive experience for all involved.
First, the development of a detailed timeline well in advance of the start of open enrollment season is a must to assure a well-designed process. The employer and their benefit consultant can analyze the company’s specific objectives, style and demographics to develop a customized approach. Included in this stage should be the scheduling of webinars, benefit fairs, seminars and opportunities, as applicable.
Likewise, the framework of an employee communication campaign can be developed, leaving specific details (like plan data, contribution schedules, etc.) to be inserted at a later time. As soon as renewals are made available by the carrier(s), plans and contribution schedules can be selected by the employer and a communication piece should be distributed to all employees outlining the planned process, any critical information and any important dates and deadlines.
Benefit plan and contribution information should be presented to employees in a manner that encourages employees to become engaged in the process. The communication material should present the range of benefit details in a simple, understandable and even exciting, if possible, manner customized as much as possible to the profile of employees in each organization.
This year especially, for meetings, online presentations and when preparing communication material in general, employers and HR personnel should also be sensitive to the challenges that have faced employees and their resultant fears and anxieties.
By focusing on the tone and positioning of benefit communications with an acknowledgement of the struggles employees have faced within their families in light of the pandemic, company leaders can demonstrate a true concern for the physical and mental wellbeing of their staff.
In today’s world, technology is everywhere and open enrollment season should find it being used whenever possible. And whereas prior to the pandemic it was common for insurance brokers to present the open enrollment benefit package through in-office meetings, with the challenge of bringing workers together this year virtual meetings will again be the norm.
In addition to these virtual meetings, the distribution of supporting materials through emails, electronic newsletters and videos can also be utilized. Most benefit administration programs also incorporate an online open enrollment portal that once only available to large groups, is now available to groups with just a few employees as well. The bonus of utilizing an online platform is that employees can access all information remotely and electronic messaging, alerts and materials sent through the system can be tracked and archived.
Additionally, in many cases, the eligibility and enrollment data submitted by the employees can usually be sent electronically, direct to the insurance carriers. All these tools can enhance the experience for today’s technology-oriented workforce and help to streamline the entire process.
Finally, once open enrollment is completed and everything settles down, the process can be reviewed and employee feedback solicited in order to better understand the components that worked well and those that didn’t. In this way, the experience can be further perfected for the following year’s open enrollment season.
The Queens Chamber of Commerce offers its members access to My Benefit Advisor as a solution for employee benefits, including voluntary offerings. For more information about My Benefit Advisor, visit our website at qcc.mybenefitadvisor.com or contact Glynis Roberts at (212) 706-9451.