Navigating Benefits

Open Enrollment 2017: Best Practices for Employee Participation

  • 53 percent of large employers offer employees a biometric screening as part of open enrollment

  • 58 percent of employees want a customized benefits package from which to choose what they need

  • Every year, around 150 million Americans enroll in group health coverage through their employer

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Posted by November 1, 2017

Open enrollment 2017 starts Nov. 1 for most organizations. During this time period, eligible employees will have the opportunity to enroll in group benefits and make changes to their benefit elections for the calendar year starting January 2018.

Make sure your company is prepared well in advance of open enrollment so employees won’t miss important deadlines. It’s also critical to offer the best possible group health and dental benefits as part of a competitive compensation strategy. Preparation is everything.

Preparing for Open Enrollment

How can employers ensure they are ready for open enrollment? And how should businesses help eligible employees make informed decisions about their benefit allocations? The following best practices can help ensure success at your company.


Go through the employee benefits package well in advance of the open enrollment period—at least twelve months ahead. This can enable your organization to gather feedback from employees, evaluate the actual use of benefits and review price points with group benefit administrators.


Endeavor to develop a better benefits package based on the above factors. Check into new (and better) benefits that can add value and flexibility to your current group offering. For example, it’s a good idea to add more supplemental insurance options in order to provide benefits that matter to employees in all stages of life. MetLife’s 15th Annual U.S. Employee Benefit Trends Study indicated that “58 percent of employees want customized benefit options based on their personal requirements.” Using an employee self-service portal can make the sign-up process easier, and improve the overall experience for employees.


There is a brief window of opportunity to communicate with employees about benefits. Most employers have at least two to four weeks, according to the Society for Human Resources Management.

Let employees know well in advance the types of benefits they can expect to have access to during open enrollment 2017. Start by talking to front-line managers about the benefits package and how they can encourage employees to enroll. Then supply employees with a comprehensive list of benefits that they can select from during enrollment.


Meet with employee groups to review the benefits that will be available during the next open enrollment period. Create brief training videos and provide other educational materials around wellness topics to help teach employees about the wide range of benefits available to them. A health benefits terminology glossary can help explain difficult topics. This can also be a good time to introduce wellness concepts, host a wellness fair and invite community wellness vendors in for educational workshops.


Open enrollment can easily be ignored unless organizations take the time to spread the word. Marketing via fliers, emails and posters can be an effective way to manage this. Share educational wellness and financial content on social media to get employees thinking about their benefit choices.


One of the challenges of open enrollment is getting employees to participate in their benefits selection. This is an opportune time to engage employees in making the right decisions for their needs. Host informational sessions and make sure there is a central point of contact who can answer any lingering questions.

Giving employees access to biometric testing can help them see where they stand in terms of general health. The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation noted that in 2016, 53 percent of large firms and 20 percent of small firms offering health benefits gave employees the chance to complete biometric screening as part of enrollment activities.


If employees take the time to sign up for benefits or complete the biometric screening, use this time to reward them. First, recognize them with a personal message delivered via the enrollment platform. Then have a member of the human resource team give them some type of corporate swag (t-shirt, koozie, etc.). Afterward, ask the employee to share with their peers how easy it was to enroll.

In most cases, benefits carriers can provide a wide range of marketing materials to employers upon request. Benefit handbooks, physician directories and explanations of various documents can be used to encourage employees to learn more. Make open enrollment about the entire company—and the importance of good health.

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