Strategies to Maintain Sanity during Employee Benefits Open Enrollment

Prepare for the Challenges of Open Enrollment with This Advice

Employee Benefits Open Enrollment.

Every year, human resource and benefit administrators eagerly look forward to the short period of time when they can engage employees to take control of their health through enrolling in group benefit plans. This is also a high stress time for any HR professional who must work extra hard to make sure employees are educated and encouraged to choose the right employee benefits. It’s no wonder that by the end of the open enrollment season, many benefits administrators are ready for a long vacation.

Planning Ahead for Open Enrollment

The good news is that the open enrollment (OE) season is something that happens around the same time each year and this gives administrators a chance to plan in advance. It’s an opportune time to meet with the members of your management team to start sharing information and deadlines so they can be prepared to talk with their employee groups. Take a minute to review last year’s OE, the current and the new benefit offerings, and the communications that have been sent out previously.

To prepare for OE, it’s possible to:

  • Assign a core team of HR administrators who will “own” Open Enrollment tasks and be available for questions
  • Update all plan summary documents with current premium rates and coverages (this information can be obtained from the plan administrator or broker)
  • Evaluate the demand for and use of individual benefit types to determine if they will be offered this year or not
  • Design new employee benefit marketing campaign materials including flyers, email blasts, and video information
  • Create a plan and timeline for rolling out the benefit enrollment instructions, promoting OE, and managing any problems that may arise
  • Start putting together a wellness fair or other series of wellness activities to spur a health conscious work culture during OE
  • Get all your data and technology concerns ironed out ahead of time, along with a contingency plan if things go wonky

Maintaining Sanity during Open Enrollment Periods

Once preparation has been made, it will be much easier to manage OE and the demands that come along with this effort. Maintaining sanity is the goal. Here are some ways to stay focused and not lose it.

#1 – Make this a team effort

Along with the HR team, look at OE as a full team effort between all members of the management team, the technology support team, and employee leaders. Do not try to tackle any aspect of OE alone.

#2 – Stick to a daily checklist

As you enter the days before, during, and after open enrollment, be sure to keep a checklist of things to work on and accomplishments made. This reduces stress and avoids any last minute snafus.

#3 – Take care of the HR team

During open enrollment, it’s important to have a constant check-in as to who is feeling the stress, who needs a break, and who is not feeling up to the tasks. Make sure to emphasize work life balance, and plan some mid-way fun events.

#4 – Keep tracking enrollment data

Stay on top of how open enrollment is proceeding by checking data frequently and making sure people are enrolling in their benefit plans well in advance of the deadline.

Don’t wait until the last minute to get on people who are lagging behind.

#5 – Deal with difficult conversations upfront

Often, during open enrollment, HR is tasked with having challenging conversations about changes to the benefit plans and increased premiums. Be honest and upfront, explaining that all companies are facing this issue because of health care industry costs.

#6 – Make OE fun with some competition

There’s nothing like a little friendly competition to lighten the mood during open enrollment. Assign points to certain tasks that employees can ​rack up to earn cool prizes. Have a couple of fun events, like a 1K walk for charity or a fitness challenge, to inspire employees.

If you follow the above tips, you will be able to handle the stressors that OE causes and take it all in stride.

Remember, you are not alone as there are thousands of HR and benefit administrators sharing the same experience.