The open enrollment process is an annual HR event where employees get to change their benefit choices and give feedback to HR and organization management.
Open enrollment is a time in the work year and an HR process when an organization allows employees to make changes or additions to their employee benefits. Common benefits that are changed can include health, dental, life insurance, HSA and any other benefits that the organization may offer. This is also the time of the year when employees can cancel any existing coverage or services that they may have. The cost of the benefits are sometimes covered by the employer and in other organizations the cost is shared with the employee. The cost can also be paid through an employee salary deferral. In most organizations, the open enrollment process usually lasts about 4-6 weeks and takes place around November, so that any new benefits plans can start by January 1st, the following year.
Steps That Can Help HR Improve The Open Enrollment Process
Planning Ahead For A Better Open Enrollment Process
Before the actual open enrollment process time of the year comes around, the HR department needs to start planning for it with a deep understanding of expectations and deliverables. As far ahead as 5-6 months before open enrollment, the HR department should start auditing promotional materials such as pamphlets, memos, videos and web pages and check for any errors and changes. During this planning stage, the HR department will also need to discover what the employees actually want and what the business can deliver. During this planning phase, it is a good time for the HR department to send out questionnaires and take note of the questions and concerns the employees have so that HR has ample time before the open enrollment process to research and get back to the employees. An important thing to do during this planning stage is for HR to reach out to the benefits partners to ensure that both parties are on the same page and this will also assist in updating the promotional materials in case there have been any changes with the vendors such as contacts, contact numbers and email addresses.
HR Must Consider The Viability Of The Employee Benefits That Are Offered
As the open enrollment period approaches, it is also a great time for the HR department to review the benefits that are offered and may consider adding any new benefits that the employees have been requesting and removing ones with poor enrollment. By looking at the data that shows the choices made by employees in the previous years, the benefits advisor and the HR department can make informed judgements and choices about the offerings for future open enrollment periods. The needs and wants of employees are constantly changing and it is up to each employer to adapt and change to suit all the employee needs, while keeping on eye on expenses, competitiveness and management expectations.
Communicating With Employees To Improve The Enrollment Process
A key factor in ensuring an organization has a successful open enrollment process is good communication. The benefits advisor and HR department need to make sure that the employees have a clear understanding of the options available before the employees make their benefits choices. The benefits advisor needs to find out how employees would like to receive the open enrollment and benefits information and also if there is any specific topics they would like more information about. Having clear lines of communication allows the benefits manager to prepare the staff for the enrollment process by delivering the information that they need. Employees often need help answering key questions like:
- Why do employees need coverage?
- What type of package will suit the employees needs?
- What will employees have to pay to cover the cost per paycheck?
- How will the benefits package be valuable to the employee?
The open enrollment process is the most important event in the HR year. The work that needs to be carried out before the process can begin, takes up a substantial amount of time for the benefits advisor and the HR department. This is why it is very important to ensure that the time is spent wisely so that the outcome is beneficial to both the employee and the organization.