The annual open enrollment period can be equally stressful for employers and employees alike. From the employee’s perspective, much of the stress related to open enrollment comes from not understanding benefits packages. Too many feel as if they are making their selections without really knowing what they are doing.
In these uncertain times, open enrollment can be even more stressful for employees. Can employers do anything to help? Absolutely. Below are some practical suggestions compliments of Dallas-based BenefitMall. While employers cannot eliminate all of the stress, they can help alleviate some of it.
1. Let Information Trickle out
It is not unusual for employers to hold hours-long meetings at which they feed employees all of the benefit information at once. Employees are sent home with large packets of information they are expected to peruse and absorb in time to make the selections. This sort of thing does not always work well even in the best of times; it is likely to be a dumpster fire in 2020.
Instead, employers should consider letting information trickle out slowly. There is still plenty of time left in the year to space out information distribution. One possible scenario is to take all of the information and divide it up according to the number of weeks the company has left before the end of open enrollment. Then send out a portion of the information every week.
2. Make Use of Virtual Meetings
When possible, employers should seek to disseminate information via virtual meetings. We are all used to the virtual environment anyway, so there is no point in trying to come up with a single date and time everyone can get together in a meeting room. Conducting several virtual meetings over a few weeks’ time gives employees options for attending based on their schedules.
Virtual meetings will also mitigate any fears employees have of meeting together. Some will undoubtedly be more comfortable attending a virtual meeting from home.
3. Keep Things Simple
This next tip requires coordination between employers, their insurance brokers, and the brokers’ general agencies. Here it is: keep things simple. This year’s open enrollment does not have to be as complicated as previous years. In fact, simple is better in 2020.
Keep language simple during video meetings and in-person presentations. When preparing documents, use language that employees normally use. When presenting options, use tools like bulleted lists and infographics. By presenting information in easier-to-absorb formats, employers address some of the anxiety employees feel when they are trying to make sense of it all.
4. Put Effort into Follow-Up
The most important tip of all is to put effort into follow-up. Far too often HR departments and insurance brokers present information and then forget about it. They wait for employees to come to them with questions. With everything people have to think about these days, such an approach is just not practical.
It is better to present benefits information, wait a few days, and then follow up with employees to see if they have questions. Following up multiple times through the end of open enrollment is even better. The more opportunities employees have to ask questions, the more likely they are to do so. In addition, following up gives employees the sense that HR cares about them.
Open enrollment 2020 is going to be simultaneously interesting and challenging. The whole world has been upended by coronavirus and its impacts are certainly being felt in the benefits space. Employers, brokers, and general agencies are all going to have to work together to help employees get through this year’s open enrollment. If that is you, good luck.