5 ways to make open enrollment easier on employees

Open enrollment is an important time of year, and it can also be confusing and a source of stress for employees. 
Thankfully, Andrea Meyer, of the professional employer organization WorkSmart Systems, is here to help you arm your employees with knowledge and tools that ease the stress of open enrollment.
Here are five of the top ways employers can start to reduce their workers’ stress levels during open enrollment:

1. Highlight benefits changes

Set your employees up for success by making sure they’re aware of key changes to benefits or the enrollment process itself.
Encourage your employees to promptly review options and thoughtfully choose a plan once enrollment begins. Also, be sure employees are aware of the penalty for forgoing health coverage in 2018.

2. Identify problems

Don’t let history repeat itself by taking note of what went smoothly during open enrollment last year and where there were holes in the process. Were there certain benefits employees seemed to be more confused about? What were the most frequent questions employees had?
Take note of these challenging areas and brainstorm ways to alleviate them. From there, create goals related to these problems.
Example: Get __% of employees saving for retirement, or engage __% of employees in an open enrollment information session – and then set up a communications strategy accordingly.

3. Communicate early and often

You spent a lot of time planning for open enrollment. Make sure that your message actually gets to your employees with effective communication. The options are almost endless, but you can’t use them all.
Decide which communication methods will best communicate critical benefits details to employees – email, employee portals, videos and workshops, etc. Make sure all of your employees have the opportunity to be fully educated about their options.
Remember, benefits communication doesn’t stop at the end of enrollment. Follow up with employees to ensure they get the most out of their benefit elections.

4. Leverage new HR tech

The platform you use to facilitate enrollment can be the difference between a smooth, efficient open enrollment season and a stressful one for all involved. Decide how you plan to administer the process – is your current HR technology platform user-friendly, streamlined and integrated? If not, it may be time to look for a new solution.
In addition to an audit of your current HR technology, consider going mobile with your enrollment communication plan – whether that means sending texts about important deadlines or providing mobile-friendly educational videos.

5. Prepare your support team

Your company’s leaders, managers and HR team must be equipped with key messages, FAQS and talking points about open enrollment.
You need allies and can use the extra help with employee questions. Make sure these allies are able to get messages about open enrollment across in a clear, consistent manner. A consistent message from several sources will set up employees for success this open enrollment season.
Talk to your employees early and often about their open enrollment options. Hold info sessions – maybe more than one to accommodate employees’ varying schedules – and consider bringing in an expert to answer tougher questions. Above all else, be available for questions and other ways employees may need your assistance.
Andrea Meyer is the benefit manager at WorkSmart Systems Inc., an Indianapolis-based professional employer organization (PEO) founded in 1998. WorkSmart serves over 200 client companies with employees in 37 states. WorkSmart is an active member of the National Association of Professional Employer Organizations (NAPEO).