“Open enrollment” season can spread HR and Benefits workers thin, as members scramble to process enrollments, answer questions, and monitor changes in plans and benefits.
For business owners, especially small business owners, the open enrollment period can be a hectic, frustrating time, as they face looming deadlines and less-than-enthusiastic employee involvement.
Today, with digital and online processes improving efficiency and effectiveness, open enrollment is easier than it was in previous decades, but it’s still a lot of very detailed work that must be accomplished accurately, and in a very short amount of time.
Below are some tips that can help minimize the stress, forestall some of the challenges, and maximize efficiency to help to streamline the open enrollment process.
While no one is interested in reinventing the wheel, it’s not a bad idea to take a good close look at the wheel to see what repairs and improvements can be made.
Let’s face it, if it didn’t work last year, or created more problems than it solved. it’s probably not going to get any better results this year.
Preliminary meetings to discuss both what went wrong and what went right in previous open enrollment campaigns is step one. Making sure that all key personnel involved in the open enrollment process are present and heard at that meeting is step two of improving the enrollment process and experience.
In these meetings:
Before releasing any information on policies or plans, double-check to make sure everything being offered is compliant with the current regulations.
Also, check to make sure that all of the employees being offered enrollment are eligible for those benefits, and that all required identification or documentation, both for them, and eligible family members has been submitted and is correct.
This will save both the time and money involved in illegitimate insurance claims down the road by identifying ineligible individuals upfront.
Gone are the days of clipboards and ballpoint pens on chains (well, mostly gone, the DMV may still use them.)
Digital access to resources is the modern-day expectation, and this is as it should be.
Employees should be able to access enrollment information and forms, as well as have the ability to digitally upload confirmation documents (when allowable) as part of completing the enrollment process.
A digitally accessible process (computer, pad, smartphone, etc.,) not only streamlines open enrollment for the employee, making completion more likely, but it’s also faster and easier for the employer to collect, organize, and submit to providers.
Plus, you save on copier and printing costs!
Having online tools and informational resources like cost estimators and plan comparisons available in advance of open enrollment not only helps your employees make financial plans and decisions regarding their coverage, it can also save your HR department a lot of redundant phone calls from confused employees.
Let’s face it…making insurance decisions are typically not the most exciting part of our day. As a matter of fact, for many, they can be confusing and downright boring.
This is why many employees take a “smile and nod” approach to open enrollment without ever really understanding how they can make changes (or not) that most benefit themselves and their families.
Don’t bog folks down in details that aren’t changing year to year. Instead, focus your communications on what’s new, how those changes may effect them in real life, and how they can benefit from them, if possible.
Comprehensive information should, of course, be readily accessible (online if possible) and certainly be provided to new hires and those employees who were not previously eligible for enrollment.
By giving your employees or team members benefit information that feels pertinent to them, they are more encouraged and motivated to study their options, make informed decisions, and complete their enrollment promptly.
Also, consider that many folks process information visually far better than audibly or in written form. Use eye-catching colors, interesting page layouts, and even correlating images in memos and informational handouts.
If you have the resources available, a short informational video that outlines the steps to a successful enrollment and highlights changes that are newly available can be very helpful.
(Don’t worry, no one expects you to be a Hollywood producer! Just keep it short, conversational, and error-free.)
Help your employees make better-informed benefit decisions by having historical data available on how much the various benefits have been used (or not used), as well as the average costs both incurred and saved for each.
By helping employees better understand what employee benefits they are most likely to need, and which they aren’t, employers set them up for a better and more satisfying insurance experience.
Having this information available also helps the employer make better decisions when considering available insurance packages they can offer to their staff.
As we’ve discussed, insurance, the related terminology, and other benefit information can be confusing.
This confusion can lead to frustration, and frustrated employees are more likely to tune out of the whole process. This, in turn, can be a major hindrance to informed decision-making and successful enrollment completion.
Have communications crafted by the best writer on your HR team, with an eye on keeping it simple and understandable. Then, confirm the details of the communication with the insurance professional who covers your policies, asking for any clarification or corrections needed.
Only then, once the content is as clear as possible, should the communication be passed along to the rest of the team.
The bottom line – if there’s anything that’s not crystal clear to you…nobody else should be reading it yet.
While nobody’s likely to rave about how much fun open enrollment was this year, it’s one of those processes that are just necessary for a business and, so, should be made as painless as possible, both of employees and employers alike.
Implement some (or all) of these tips before your next open enrollment, using communication best practices and the proper planning tools, and you’ll help set the stage for a more stress-free, successful process that provides a win-win for everyone.
That’s just good business.
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