Open Enrollment Season: Increasing Positive Results and Decreasing Stress
For Human Resources professionals, there are two words that almost always elicit a collective sigh: open enrollment. The season creates large amounts of work for HR professionals, and also causes stress, not just for them, but employees and company leaders. Almost all of the stress is caused by the reality decisions collectively costing billions of dollars will be made in a very short amount of time. The majority of those decisions will impact the wallets and purses of employees.
How can HR professionals help smooth out the process? Here are a few ideas.
The Past Informs the Future
One of the best ways HR professionals can have a positive impact on the enrollment process is looking to the previous year’s season. Hindsight is 20/20 after all. What failed? What succeeded? Can more success be built on the positive outcomes of the previous year? What lessons can be learned?
- HR departments should first hold a meeting to discuss the previous year’s events. Identify the positives and negatives. Then build an action plan for the new season.
- Know the goals going forward. What do HR professional teams need to do to accomplish those goals?
- Make sure to understand the diversity of the workforce. Knowing what each worker, whether they be a Millennial or a baby boomer, needs will increase the success of the season.
- Decide how to measure success.
Keep an Open Door Policy
Generally speaking, almost all employees make one or two assumptions about their respective employer’s healthcare options.
- The company is trying to keep costs down by offering cheap and/or useless healthcare options.
- The company is trying to pass off the cost of high-end options to the employees
Those assumptions can be misleading.
Speak to the workforce about the options being provided and why. Give the employees the “big picture” view of the situation. Transparency will help garner positive perceptions on the part of the employee.
Time is a Necessity
If open enrollment is not a pleasant time for HR professionals, it’s certainly not for employees. They’re going to make decisions about big ticket items that could equal a higher healthcare price than the year before. Not only does it impact a family’s collective income, but also its health needs.
Employees don’t need to be rushed through the process. Make sure they have plenty of time to complete enrollment. That could mean scheduling mandatory time for employees to focus on the process to making sure you have “all hands on deck” during the enrollment period.
Think like a Marketer
HR professionals should do whatever it takes to push out the information regarding healthcare options. Schedule mandatory meetings for employees, make sure they have access to the information as soon as possible, and send that information as often as needed.
If possible, engage corporate communication staff to assist in the messaging. Branding an open enrollment season can help lead members of the workforce to information about the newest healthcare options. It can also help increase turnout and decrease confusion.
HR professionals should also consider employing other means of communication. Don’t simply rely on email, posters, or snail mail. Employees are trending more toward social interactions amongst their peers and co-workers. Take advantage of this fact. Look to social media outlets for new ways to reach employees.
When preparing your message… think about its look. HR professionals need to understand the attention span of an employee. It’s about 30 seconds. Your message needs to conform to that reality.
- Include bold graphics. These images can catch the eye and deliver specific pieces of information quickly.
- Get to the point. Long emails and “busy” posters will not do the trick. Employees don’t have the time to stand around the proverbial water cooler anymore. Instead of one long email, for instance, create a campaign where a series of emails are sent with concise pieces of information.
- Keep it simple. Whenever possible, use plain English. Try to keep difficult-to-understand jargon to a minimum. If an employee doesn’t understand the language, it creates work for them and for HR professionals to figure it out.
Remember too much of a good thing is still too much. Make sure not to inundate the worker with information. Doing so could have a negative impact on your desire to be informative.
Diversify the Messaging
It’s important to take in to account the diversity of your workforce. Millennials imbibe information differently than baby boomers and Generation Z. HR professionals must find ways to reach each member of the workforce based on their expectations and needs.
For instance, today’s workforce is inclined to access this information and sign up for benefits through a mobile device. Make sure vendors offering that access include a mobile version for workers. Providing these forms of delivery will help increase the number of employees enrolling on time and will cut down on issues during the process.
Giving employees time and support through the open enrollment process will garner several things:
- A positive workplace culture
- Positive opinions of companies and their leaders from employees
- An increase in wellness
Translation: work smarter, not harder. Decreasing the stress on employees and their families during a very personal and stressful time will yield better results for all involved.