By Stacy Kuehler

We know HR has a pretty full plate of responsibilities, but open enrollment should never be considered a “one and done” type of thing. There’s too much at stake. It’s not enough to do the same thing year after year.

You need to assess whether or not your communications and campaign strategy have produced the desired results, and then use those learnings to help guide next year’s efforts. Especially since, despite your best efforts, there’s a lot of inertia among your employees to overcome if you want to ensure they’re making the right benefits choices and not leaving money on the table.

Consider some worrisome statistics that should inform your next steps:

  • 83 percent of employees spend under an hour researching their open enrollment options.1
  • 92 percent of workers just sign up for their previous year’s benefits.2
  • 96 percent of them can’t correctly define “deductible,” “out-of-pocket maximum,” “co-pay,” or “co-insurance.”3

Your challenge is always to inform, educate and engage your employees so that they are making the best benefits choices, not just the easiest. Don’t let too much time pass before you assess what worked and what didn’t. It will help you immensely as you plan your strategy for the next open enrollment. Here are six steps to consider taking:

  1. Get employee feedback. This can take any number of forms, and you don’t have to limit yourself. Consider creating an employee survey to get their perspective on how easy or difficult the process of enrolling in benefits was, and how well they understood the options available to them. This can be augmented by qualitative Q&A sessions with employee groups to gain more in-depth insights.
  2. Analyze your campaign and its outcomes. Your HR team should sit down with your benefits consultants as well as your carrier representatives to combine your observations about what worked and what didn’t. You’ll also want to factor employee feedback into your deliberations as you work to shape future campaigns.
  3. Evaluate your employee communications. It’s not just the effectiveness of your messaging that’s important, but the forms and channels you used that need to be weighed. Did your emails achieve a high open rate? Were in-person or webinar events well attended? Did employees understand the options available to them and the differences in the benefit offerings between this year and last? Developing insights into what tactics most engaged and influenced your employees will help you refine your communications approaches next year.
  4. Consider how effectively you are using technology. Technology is increasingly important in facilitating the enrollment process. Millennials and Gen Z, for example, tend to prefer to receive communications digitally. You need to use technology in as seamless a way as possible because some employees may not be as comfortable with it as others. Plus, it’s possible to over-rely on technology as the one thing that will lead to open enrollment success. It won’t. Your non-tech outreach is also important – so don’t discount the importance of face-to-face meetings.
  5. Think about incentives. Given the amount of money you have invested in your health benefits, any effort to increase your returns is worth considering. It’s probable that a decent percentage of your employees would benefit by in-person, group meetings – but it can be difficult getting people to attend. Incentives, like raffling off gift cards to attendees, can make a difference. If you’ve done this, evaluate what types of incentives make a difference in attendance. If you try incentives for the next open enrollment period, monitor where they were most effective.
  6. Think about timing of your communication. The actual launch of your open enrollment communications campaign should start only four to six weeks in advance. But your planning for the next open enrollment strategy should start as soon as you’ve analyzed this year’s outcomes and have insights to put to good use. There’s no time like the present to get started.

Your HUB International consultants are ready to help you with every stage of open enrollment, from assessing the strengths and weaknesses of this year’s efforts to designing an effective program for next year. Learn how one company met the challenge.

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