Employers offer a broad range of employer-sponsored HR and benefits programs with the goal of improving health and wellbeing. Open Enrollment provides a great opportunity to help employees optimize their benefits, engage in the right programs, and start on the path to better wellbeing.
Why is open enrollment so important? Employees are now looking at the entire employee experience as “benefits,” not just insurance or retirement plans. As a result, their choices are more important than ever.
The past two years reshaped today’s workforce. COVID and its impact have resulted in the “Great Resignation,” the “Great Regret,” and now recession fears are also weighing in the back of workers’ minds.
At the same time, a new generation of workers (Gen Z) has entered the workplace and bring with them new expectations focused on overall wellbeing including:
- greater workplace flexibility
- a technology-enabled work experience, and
- an emphasis on work/life balance.
In the 2022 International Workforce and Wellbeing Mindset Study 1, we found all employees surveyed have similar expectations:
- 54% of workers would not consider a job that provides less flexibility than they have today
- Only 54% of workers consider their technology at work to match up with technology experiences outside work and 39% of workers are frustrated with work technology
- 50% believe wellbeing benefits make companies more attractive
Looking for a more successful Open Enrollment? Consider some of the factors below:
- Assess and prioritize benefits and HR – Start by reviewing what you have. Affordability remains a challenge for employers and employees alike. Employers are considering new strategies to manage the cost of health coverage including new health plan designs that pair low deductibles with concierge support to find the right treatment at in-network providers, local vs. national plans and health navigation solutions. Many are adding voluntary benefits to fill the gaps in coverage including critical illness, hospital indemnity and personal accident insurance.
What are you trying to accomplish? What changes are you making for the upcoming year? How will these benefits and programs meet employee needs? Some benefits and HR programs should get top billing during Open Enrollment, like the medical plan or medical supplement plans. Others are more important to highlight as employees use benefits throughout the year. These include telehealth, mental health benefits and financial wellbeing support, and they may be provided by your medical plan, EAP or a specialty provider.
- Align your open enrollment strategy – Determine what you need employees to do in order to accomplish your objectives. Setting tangible goals for enrollment is vital, but if they don’t align with your enrollment tactics and strategy, your results may be ineffective. For example, if your goal is to encourage enrollment in a high-performance network medical plan, but employees can’t easily find which doctors are in-network or don’t know the details (premiums, deductible, etc.), they may enroll in a medical plan that’s not as effective. In such cases, you must provide enough differentiation between plans or leverage technology to help employees see the distinctions for their needs.
- Show the value of your employee benefits – Most employees are not aware of everything their employers are offering. Our survey found that only 53% of employees have a good understanding of their total rewards. When employers communicated about total rewards, 86% of employees felt encouraged to take advantage of what’s available. As you build your communication strategy for Open Enrollment, consider framing it through the lens of total rewards to show employees the full value.
- Make benefits personal – Nearly 60% of employees are interested in personalized health messages. Personalization is what employees experience in their everyday lives – turn-by-turn driving instructions from their navigation apps and “just for you” suggestions from streaming services when searching for TV shows or movies. You want your people to know that the benefits and programs you offer are catered to what they need and want. So, think about ways you can create a more personal enrollment experience for employees and see how it impacts your results.
- Help employees optimize their benefits – Open Enrollment provides an opportunity for employees to do an annual “benefits checkup.” Yet even the most benefits savvy employees struggle to see the value in all the available benefits and programs. They need help optimizing their coverage during open enrollment and using their benefits throughout the year. A combination of high tech and high touch support may be required to meet the needs of all employees.
Nearly 80% valued guided enrollment experiences that recommend the health plan (including HSA or FSA contribution) and voluntary benefits that meet the needs of themselves and their families.
Increasingly, employers are offering benefits counseling services that provide one-on-one guidance to employees at Open Enrollment. During scheduled appointments, counselors spend time understanding employee and family needs, educating employees on the breadth of benefits, providing recommendations and enrolling employees in coverage.
- Only require meaningful action in enrollment steps – The enrollment period is complicated. With so many plan options and ways to enroll, it’s easy for employees to get distracted from what’s important and what’s not. Try to avoid preoccupying employees with questions that aren’t necessary for submittal and, if needed, make them as clear as possible. For example, if your employee has indicated that he or she is not a smoker for the past five enrollment questionnaires, is it necessary to require a response yet again?
Look for ways to simplify and automate the enrollment process where possible. Meet employee expectations by leveraging technology. More than 75% of employees in the survey valued digital tools designed to help them make benefit decisions. These included provider search tools, plan comparisons and total plan cost modelers. Can people enroll online? Can employees easily access information and resources in one consolidated benefits portal?
Create an experience for enrollment that replicates what users may encounter in everyday life, including:
- Real-time updates
- Instantaneous assistance
- Expert insights
- Convenient accessibility
- Don’t stop after annual enrollment – Open enrollment is a huge feat for many organizations, but it’s not the only feat. Once enrollment has ended, there are additional tasks to prep for and execute, such as delivering participant plans to vendors and opening new HSA accounts.
Also, the end of Open Enrollment is just the beginning of ongoing communication. Start with a focus on the most important post-enrollment actions:
- Educate employees on key plan provisions
- Encourage use of provider search tools or expert support to select a primary care doctor, pediatrician or specialist
- Promote participation in wellbeing programs
- Target outreach to individuals who could benefit from chronic care management programs; for example: diabetes management, digital MSK or hypertension support
It’s not too late to make this Open Enrollment a success and help your employees understand how their benefits can serve as a core pillar of the entire employee experience. Broaden your communication strategy to incorporate total rewards to give employees a full picture of pay and benefits. Provide technology and tools and expert support to help employees optimize their core and voluntary benefits to meet their needs and those of their family members. Deliver targeted, personalized messages after enrollment and throughout the year to help employees use benefits wisely and actively engage in programs to improve their wellbeing.
1. The 2022 Alight International Workforce and Wellbeing Mindset Study in collaboration with Business Group on Health surveyed 10,000 employees across the United States, United Kingdom, France, Germany and the Netherlands to examine employee perceptions across the employee experience and wellbeing.