Managing Wellness

Open Enrollment: How to Foster Employee Education and Participation

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Posted by September 13, 2016

Each year, as a human resources practitioner, you look forward to a brief period called open enrollment (OE) during which your employees can enroll, re-enroll and make changes to their employer-sponsored group benefits. OE is a significant event on the annual corporate calendar, and it generally happens around the same time each year. Unfortunately, some employees are unprepared and may find it a confusing time.

Why Preparing and Educating Employees Is Important

Open enrollment is often treated as an afterthought, but with a little preparation it can be very beneficial. The first step is to realize why your employees might not engage with the process. The biggest reasons for non-participation during OE are:

  • Confusion over when enrollment is actually taking place
  • Not understanding where to enroll
  • Not understanding how or when they need to make changes in benefit plans

Along with that, employee education is important to the success of your employee benefits programs. It helps reduce the costs of offering benefits to employees. In 2015, Mercer rolled out its annual survey of employer-sponsored health plans and found that “2016 costs are predicted to rise by 4.3 percent after employers make changes to plans.” Interestingly enough, however, if employers made no changes to their existing plans, their costs still went up by as much as 6.3 percent on average. Thus, the more your employees know about their health care plan costs and options, the better equipped they are to help reduce overall costs.

Best Practices for Engaging Employees

You can ensure that your employees are properly informed and ready to make the right choices once the enrollment period arrives. Try implementing these best practices as you prepare for your next open-enrollment period:

  1. Educate employees year-round about employee benefits
    According to a Center for American Progress study from 2015, it’s recommended that employers be transparent about any changes to health care. As an employer, you should devise ways of educating your employees about how they can keep their medical costs down through preventative services and treatments, the use of health savings accounts and being smarter health care consumers.
  2. Market heavily before benefits enrollment times
    In the months leading up to an open-enrollment period, work with your marketing team to produce employee-focused materials about the enrollment process and your benefits package. Setting up a wellness fair is a fun way to inform employees about all the benefits your company has to offer.
  3. Have a central system for managing plan documents and enrollment
    A simple, yet secure platform where employees can log in, learn about their benefits and enroll or make changes in their plans is a good way to increase participation. As well, the faster you can bring new hires and existing employees up to speed on this, the more effective it will be.
  4. Provide total rewards statements before OE
    In the weeks just before the enrollment period begins, your HR team should generate reward statements that detail the total benefits and perks that employees enjoy. This will often prompt employees to explore their benefits a little more, including taking the time to complete their OE tasks.

The open-enrollment period doesn’t have to be a tedious or frustrating process to manage. From a business leadership standpoint, it’s about planning in advance and establishing a smooth process for you to effectively carry this out once OE comes around.

What are your best tips for a successful OE? Tell us on Twitter!

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