No group meetings this year. No posters in the break room. No on-site benefits fair. This will be an open enrollment unlike any other. How do employers prepare?
Many HR pros (63%) say their company’s open enrollment strategy this year will depend on online resources due to COVID-19, according to The Hartford survey.
“Communication is critical,” says Jonathan Bennett, head of group benefits at The Hartford. “HR departments need to be engaging in their workforce.”
Here are some strategies to consider, as employers prepare for 2021 open enrollment, which begins Nov. 1, 2020.
Lay the groundwork now, says DirectPath VP of Client Services Kim Buckey. “Remind people that enrollment is coming up,” she says.
The coronavirus has piqued employees’ interest in their benefits, and they most likely will welcome health information this year.
Employers should highlight benefits that might be more useful during the pandemic, such as telehealth, mental health services and COVID-19 testing and treatment.
Consider conducting a survey before enrollment to gauge what benefits employees are most interested in this year. Then create presentations to highlight those services.
Employers are rethinking their benefits needs. “Stay close to the pulse of your people; make thoughtful and intentional decisions,” says Desiree Pascual, chief people officer at mental health platform Ginger.
Health benefits and wellness programs are becoming more important to employees. Employers’ claims data can help identify any gaps in care that need to be addressed.
Firms might include more messaging tying voluntary benefits with health benefits to bridge any gaps in offerings. Voluntary benefits, such as hospital indemnity plans or critical illness insurance, can build flexibility in benefits programs, says Harry Cain, voluntary benefits consultant at healthcare leader Mercer.
Another area to consider changing for 2021: Offer more robust primary care services, as well as chronic care management. This is key due to the decline in care caused by the stay-at-home pandemic.
Mental health’s in the spotlight
COVID-19 has significantly expanded the need for mental health services. This is due to the sudden shift to being fully remote, kids being home from school and higher levels of stress.
While many firms have employee assistance programs, they may need to add more services. The key is to ensure workers are aware of them and know how to access them.
Less jargon, more tools
Open enrollment communications need to make employees feel cared for, said David Slavney, partner at Mercer. “Other than required communications, consider separate messaging without jargon to clearly explain to employees how benefits decisions were made,” he said.
However, keep messaging brief. “Emphasize the ‘what’s in it for me,’” says Buckey. “If you can point out the value of an employee taking actions, usually that translates into dollars.”
Use a variety of communications tools this year. Send out mailers, then go virtual. Include videos, emails and PDFs, says Barry Cohn, CEO, Really Great Employee Benefits. Pre-recorded webinars and online education hubs, which allow employees to enroll online, are other options.
Employers might host a virtual benefits fair with multiple sessions to ensure all employees can attend at least one. Also, consider inviting vendors to attend to provide specific information. And include virtual breakout rooms for employees to ask additional questions.