The coronavirus pandemic showed the world how quickly established procedures can be swept away. With the reality of a continued remote workforce as well as adherence to social distancing protocols for those workers who may be on site, many employers are faced with delivering a modified or completely virtual open enrollment.
The following considerations are important as employers embark on developing plans for an engaging and effective virtual open enrollment:
1. Start earlier. Make no mistake: this year will be different. No more dusting off the tried and true annual process of the past. A virtual delivery will require more planning and, in some cases, resources to be successful in this approach. As this will likely be new to both employer and employees, being more thoughtful in approach and accommodating to employees’ needs will demand more of a time investment.
2. Reassess your strategy. What are you trying to accomplish overall? Will you be making significant adjustments—enhancements, reductions—that will require significant change communication? Will you require each employee to attend an open enrollment meeting, live webinar and/or view a recording? Or will you have a passive enrollment with minimal or no benefit changes? How will you measure success this year? Really think about what you want employees to “do” during open enrollment.
3. Identify workforce limitations. Where are they—what resources do they have available—how are you going to reach them? Do you have all of the information you need to reach employees? Much more than relying on the traditional preferred method of communication for enrollments past, today’s workforce may be overloaded with email. Is it an older demographic that benefits from in-person meetings? Are they tech savvy? Will there be technology constraints (no workplace-provided computer, no at-home internet, limited or no phone data, etc.)? What additional tools may be available that have not been traditionally utilized but can be easily deployed?
4. Centralize benefit information (hub). The best way to ensure that employees can easily locate benefits materials is to have a centralized hub where resources are housed. Whether a benefits website (benefits administration portal), intranet or microsite, the employee should be able to easily locate HR contact information, see the call to action and clearly identify deadlines. An effective benefits hub would encapsulate any of the following: benefits guide, education videos, webinar registration or recording, podcasts, digital materials, decision support tools, forms, links to external partner sites/content, and any relevant instructions (how to enroll, how to use new technology, etc.). Don’t forget to leverage resources from your benefit vendor partners.
5. Communicate broadly and often. Map out how you plan to effectively deliver content via each channel available: hub, ringless voicemails, email, partner websites, social (Teams, Yammer, text), webinars, video and more. Consider communicating earlier in the process than you have in the past to allow employees to become comfortable with any new channels or resources. You will need to accommodate for social distancing requirements by considering options such as having sign-up Q&A meetings, registration for small sessions to limit attendance and a material drop-off/pick-up area. Do not discount the use of print materials like oversized postcards, and a full printed enrollment kit may be necessary for those without technology or not within reasonable reach of the office.
6. Document the enrollment process. Provide clear, step-by-step instructions on what employees need to do, how they need to do it and when the deadline is. Keep it simple! It is important to have a clear call to action and explain how to get help. For a new virtual process, keep in mind that not all employees may have access to a printer. If employees must enroll electronically, they must have access to the technology in order to do so. Specifically map out the enrollment options available: electronic, print and mail-in or drop-off. If drop-off, how can employees safely do that? Can they submit a picture via phone? Is the form a fillable PDF that can be emailed back? Can this be done telephonically? Identify these solutions up front to eliminate unnecessary confusion and increased HR call/email volume.
7. Be responsive and transparent. Continue to build trust by being forthcoming. Remain sensitive to any potential discomfort, anxiety or uncertainty with the new process as well as the continued remote work environment. Make sure employees know who to reach out to and how to reach them. Be accessible—live chat hours (Skype, Teams), Q&A sessions via conference call or webinar. Keep your communications simple, clear and concise. At the end of the day, none of us have been through a pandemic before, and flexibility is paramount this enrollment season. Employees should be assured we are all adjusting together.
As always, feel free to contact your Hylant representative to discuss how we can assist you with your employee benefit questions. Don’t have a Hylant representative? Click here to find one near you.