5 Ways to Survive Open Enrollment in HR


You guys—it’s almost here! That one time of year when the wheels come off a bit and you’re fighting an uphill battle with deadline after deadline. Open enrollment (OE) is almost here!

It’s that time of year when your team gets the chance to re-evaluate the benefits they’ve elected and make changes to their plans. We get to remind our employees of the value of their package and what the organization is offering to them. We need to be on top of our game in terms of plan design, contribution structure, forms/documents, communication, scheduling and of course, everyone’s favorite game of tackling those last stragglers who hold up the whole darn process. There is a lot to manage, especially for those HR Departments of One (HRDO1). Don’t worry, we’re here to help!

So, what’s an already maxed-out HR leader to do to survive open enrollment season?


1. Stop, Collaborate and Listen

You thought I was going to bust into song, didn’t you? Well, despite being a member of the Vanilla Ice fan club, I’m going to share how this tactic can make your life as an HRDO1 a bit easier at OE.

The quickest and easiest ways to stumble through open enrollment is to try to go it alone. The best plans are ones that have taken into consideration the unique needs of your employee population (and their families). Whether it be surveys or focus groups, take time to find out what’s really important to your group. Work with leaders to give several options if you can. Include both basic and enhanced offering with employee premium sharing arrangements that attempt to balance both employees as well as the organization’s budget.

2. Make a Plan!

Find out when you need to turn in your employee elections and work backwards from there. Give yourself a few days to review elections before you send them off to ensure elections meet eligibility requirements, forms are signed, beneficiaries are listed, and the like. Make a list of the nitty-gritty details to ensure nothing gets missed, starting by reviewing what worked and what didn’t last year.

3. Partner with a Great Agent

Great agents are worth their weight in gold. Seriously, if you don’t have one, you should. An experienced benefits insurance agent does all of the heavy lifting to present plans that align with your benefits, philosophy and budget. They will also help you manage communication, compliance and administrative items. Many even offer low- or no-cost enrollment platforms as well. If the agent you’re partnering with isn’t doing all of these things consider finding someone new.

4. Communicate, and Then Communicate Again. Ok, One More Time.

This is where we often see HR professionals struggle. We’re so focused on the back end of things, we forget to tell everyone what’s coming, what they need to do, how to do it and when they need to do it by. Start early, as much as four to six months before OE, letting your teams know what it is and what you’ll be asking of them. Consider using multiple platforms that align with your employment brand; company meetings, eye-catching paycheck stuffers or bulletin board posters, intranet, scheduled email reminders, social media posts, texts, or videos, etc. Don’t forget to communicate with spouses, retirees, employees on a leave of absence and former employees on COBRA as well. Make sure that you focus on how to enroll and speak to the perks of each plan. Finally, just because OE will come to an end, your communication shouldn’t. Make a conscience effort to initiate regular updates about benefits throughout the course of the year.

5. Stay Organized

Hopefully, you’re collecting elections via an online platform, but if you’re dealing with the land of paper, make sure you know what you need, from whom you need it and when you need it, by creating a spreadsheet. Ensure that you know what compliance notices you’re required to provide and that you include them in your comprehensive benefit guide.

Hopefully, by implementing these five strategies, you’ll not only survive open enrollment, but you’ll thrive in it. And your employees will thank you for it!

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