Open enrollment is right around the corner and with more hybrid employees in the workforce than ever before, this year poses different challenges for both employers and employees. This change in the workforce forces businesses to embrace technology and get creative not only when it comes to day-to-day operations, but also with meetings, conferences, and events. Open enrollment for employee benefits will be no different. In fact, a 2022 BenefitsPro survey‡ found that 60% of employers place employee health and wellbeing as the top priority when it comes to employee benefits.
Related to employee benefits, the current state of the economy has changed many people’s behaviors, and this means employees are more stressed and are starting to think more about long-term challenges. Employee stress and well-being are top of mind for employers. Wellness and health benefits programs can enable employees to invest to meet their long-term needs, not just short-term wants.
An additional 2022 BenefitsPro survey‡ found the top enrollment methods for this year are utilizing online electronic enrollment tools and meeting with an enroller or broker in-person as a group. With this in mind, it is important for employers to accommodate both the needs of employees seeking a virtual experience and those wanting an in-person session.
Below are some ways that employers can better prepare and plan for a beneficial and hybrid open enrollment session this year.
As employers gear up for open enrollment, it can be beneficial to pause and reflect on the past year. Talk about what was effective – this can help frame the conversation around this year’s format and any plan changes. Be sure to think about and understand the benefits employees need now versus this time last year, and the impact of COVID-19 on benefit goals. Highlight benefits that might be more useful during the pandemic such as telehealth, mental health services and coverage for COVID-19 testing and treatment.
Consider conducting a survey or quiz to employees before open enrollment to gauge what aspects of a benefits package they are most interested in learning about. Employers can create presentations and highlight certain features based on those results. Remember, this is a chance to make the process more personal than in the past. By taking advantage of new technology that enables one-on-one, face-to-face interactions, benefits teams can actually provide more support on-demand and have the opportunity to make the experience more beneficial and perhaps better than before.
Consider a hybrid benefits fair
A hybrid benefits fair can engage all employees, including those working remotely. Create an agenda and consider hosting multiple sessions, including both in-person and virtual sessions to ensure flexibility with fitting in with all employees’ schedules. Send out reminders and outline what employees can expect for a hybrid fair, including highlights and changes to any benefits packages or offerings. Keep the presentation simple and straightforward, while providing the appropriate digital tools for remote employees. Even if the benefits fair goes as planned, employees will most likely have questions. It can be helpful to create a benefits FAQs digital handout for employees that covers basic questions and can be a valuable resource for employees to have access to benefits information 24/7.
Employers may also consider inviting vendors to attend and participate in hybrid benefits fairs to create an engaging and accessible environment. They can provide specific information and guidance if employees have unique situations they would like to discuss. Employers can also host breakout sessions virtually and in-person for employees to join if they have additional questions or would like to learn more about a certain topic.
Provide on-demand support
With employees working from home and at the office, access to virtual and in-person enrollment help and guidance is a must. Employers should make it possible for their employees to both virtually and physically stop by their desk for help.
A hybrid open enrollment fair or kick-off should offer virtual office hours and time after the presentation for employees to ask real time questions in-person. To avoid being inundated with calls or emails, employers should consider working with their HR team to use a calendar tool where employees can book times with staff members to talk through considerations, ask questions and make the process more personal.
It’s important to invest in technology and test it out in advance of hosting hybrid events—specially to ensure employee experiences are similar whether remote or in person. Provide benefits decision support and education tools to make the process as seamless as possible for remote employees. Consider sending text alerts or emails to your employees about enrollment and record the primary information session so that employees can access it at a later date for a refresh or if they missed it.
Focus on engagement
Try to focus on creating more options for communication and make it interesting so that it catches employees’ attention both in-person and remote. Employers should try to focus on key changes to benefits. If employers decide to move forward with an employee survey to gauge plan aspect interest, this is where employers and the HR team can focus on those results. Host one-on-one virtual sessions and ask for feedback. Measure the success of hybrid enrollment by measuring engagement before, during and after the process.
Make it personal
Employees expect personalized communication and will want their specific questions to be answered rather than receiving generic content. Employers should focus on personal messaging and creating space and options for employees to feel heard and have their questions answered. While this is a challenging time, employers should expect to have a more successful enrollment when they connect with employees about their individual situations and allow employees to make better choices when participating in programs. Educate employees on the benefits available, how they work and what type of value they should expect. In turn, this will build benefit awareness, financial hardship support, resource directives and a caring culture.
It’s not too late to start planning and executing a successful hybrid benefits enrollment season. Keep in mind that COVID-19, as well as the current economy continues to change the benefit-covered population as well as goals and priorities. Be prepared to adjust strategy as the current environment is always changing.
Claims data can help identify trends and potentially any gaps in care that need to be addressed. Invest in technology, support and education tools for your employees. Remember, a good financial wellness platform can ensure that the employee is making an informed decision based on their benefits package and their specific circumstances.
Learn more about UMB Healthcare Services, which ranks fifth in total accounts and seventh in total deposit assets among all HSA providers (Source: 2021 Devenir Mid-year HSA Market Statistics & Trends Report‡).