Navigating Benefits

A Guide to Open Enrollment for Employers


  • Before open enrollment begins, you need to have your company plans all lined up

  • Provide detailed information to colleagues regarding the plans being offered, including clear dates and deadlines

  • Make sure you follow up with team members to ensure they are happy with the new plan

Posted by August 25, 2018

Although it may feel like you just finished open enrollment, it will be here again before you know it. It’s a busy time of year, so you’ll thank yourself if you prepare in advance! To help you successfully navigate another sign-up period, we’ve put together a guide to open enrollment.

Here’s what you need to know in order to ensure your company’s next open enrollment period goes smoothly—and that your coworkers are satisfied with their benefits.

Choosing Your Company’s Plans

Before open enrollment begins, you need to have your company’s plans all lined up. It’s a good idea to look at plans for the upcoming year and balance out the costs (and benefits) based on what the staff needs. If your organization is a small business, you likely know every employee and their general family situations, so be sure to take that into consideration. Here’s a checklist of things to focus on:

  • Health insurance. What doctors and hospitals are within network? If you have employees with long commutes or who telecommute, are their preferred doctors, dentists and hospitals in their neighborhoods? Remember, health insurance is of no value to them if they can’t actually use it. What are the out-of-pocket costs your colleagues can expect to pay? Do you have an HSA to help with deductibles?
  • Dental insurance. What dentists in the area accept the insurance plan? For non-network providers, what costs will your coworkers have to pay out of network? What about braces? If you have employees with children, expensive braces will likely be on their radar—what do these plans cover?
  • Vision insurance. How often can an employee get a new pair of glasses (or a new prescription for contact lenses) under this plan? Is it reasonable?
  • Discounts. What group discounts are available? Does it make sense to join a small business coalition in order to get a better price on insurance? Will that open or limit options?
  • Gather your colleagues’ thoughts. In most small businesses, it’s possible to get a pretty good idea of what employees want and need, but did you ask them explicitly? If not, you should consider doing so.

Presenting the Information

Don’t just say, “Hey everyone, we’re going with this insurance plan next year. Come sign up!” Remember, it’s unlikely you’ll pick the ideal plan for every single employee, as people have vastly different needs. You do the best you can, of course—but there may be some people who are disappointed.

To prepare for this, compile some detailed information in advance. Your insurance broker can normally provide the details. Either offer to sit down one-on-one with people that have questions, or host a lunch and learn session (the company should provide the lunch to make it more palatable) where you go over the new plan’s information. Employees should also be made aware that they can access a guide to open enrollment on their own.

Present clear dates and deadlines, and follow up with anyone who hasn’t submitted their choices and paperwork. Don’t have team members’ deadlines be the same as the insurance company’s deadline, or you won’t have any wiggle room to help people out individually.

Following Up

While people are apt to complain if things don’t go as planned, they are more likely to keep quiet when things go well. Make sure you follow up with fellow employees to ensure they are happy with the new plan. This will enable you to learn what worked, and provide insight into what didn’t—which can be helpful for the following year. Insurance should always be a consideration.

Make sure you’re not asking intrusive questions (such as, “Jane, have you had your annual dental appointment recently?”) but that you’re asking how things are working out (for instance, “Jane, how is the dental plan working for your family?”). Remember that some people only use health insurance in an emergency out of preference, and some do because of cost. Make sure you know where your employees fall.

Having the right medical, dental and vision plans can impact your organization’s ability to attract and retain top employees. To keep everyone happy, ensure that your open enrollment period goes smoothly and is set up to make it as easy as possible for employees to get what they need.

You may also like