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​​Open Enrollment: How To Prepare For Change and Success - Valley Schools VSMG Arizona

How To Prepare For ​​Open Enrollment — Changes & Success

*This is Part 2 of our Open Enrollment blog series, in case you missed it, here’s Part 1.


“Before anything else, preparation is the key to success.” — Alexander Graham Bell.

Now that you’ve gathered key insights into what employees truly value, want, and need regarding their benefits package and determined what needs to be adjusted, it’s time to prepare.

Change is hard, but preparing your team and your employees to understand the value of the changes you’ll be making to your benefits package is paramount to its success. Below are the 5 key areas to focus on in your preparation.

1.) Decision-Making and Implementation

When updating your benefits package, including adding a new benefit, enhancing an existing benefit, or replacing a vendor—implementation is crucial. For new benefits or carrier replacements, ensure your benefits consultant presents all options and recommends the best options for your employee base. Plan designs, rates, administration, technology integration, and underwriting terms should all be part of the decision-making process.

Once decisions are made, be sure to dedicate adequate time to implement those changes. This includes building the new or replacement plans into your enrollment and payroll system, as well as learning the process of how policy submission and billing reconciliation work.

Finally, get updated benefit plan summaries. Double and triple-check that the rates, eligibility, and information presented to employees are correct. Consult with your enrollment system, your consultant or plan administrator, and your payroll systems team to ensure nothing is missed.

2.) Strategic Benefit Education

Get strategic with the benefit information presented to your employees before and during the Open Enrollment period. Reach your employees where they are—email, text, HR portal. Vary your communications between virtual and printed collateral to make the information accessible to all.

Offer benefits information in multiple mediums like in-person or virtual presentations, Q&A sessions, printed benefits guides, videos, webinars, and so on. Within your benefits education, be sure to cover some basic information to help make open enrollment successful.

  • What is open enrollment?
  • What can I change during open enrollment?
  • What happens if I miss the open enrollment deadline?

Beyond basic information, overemphasize plan changes and employer contributions, especially with health and medical-related benefits. Also, highlight benefit plan features that lower population health costs such as in-network benefits, wellness programs, telehealth, and second opinion programs. Provide more than the necessary information on new benefit plans offered or enhancements to existing plans. Get employees excited about new or improved offerings!

It may also be useful to inform your employees about existing benefits that have low participation or are currently underutilized. Educate employees on just how these benefits work and support them in times of physical, financial, and emotional distress.

Feeling overwhelmed? Don’t forget to leverage your resources. If your company uses third-party administrators to manage your benefits programs, reach out to them for help!

3.) Information Sessions

Based on your Open Enrollment period, employee schedules, and availability, identify key dates and times to hold information sessions during work hours and after hours to accommodate as many people as possible. Hold, at minimum, one virtual information session that is recorded so that other decision-makers in the employee’s family can attend. If you have Spanish-speaking employees, be sure to hold special sessions just for them or have the transcript translated.

There’s a range of experience with benefits in any employee group. Some may have a limited understanding of the benefits. There’s a good chance a few have not had to make health plan or retirement benefit selections before. Create a plan to support employees at all levels.

Again, include your benefit plan representatives and have them present at these sessions. They are the experts on their own products and can answer detailed questions if they arise.

4.) Personalized Benefit Education Support

Even with all the above considerations made, it may not be enough. One-on-one support is a great option to take it up a notch with personalized support. This can include benefit education counselors, which will provide your employees with the attention and the tools needed to make the right benefits decisions.

Third-party benefit counselors or enrollers can be found through carrier relationships or outside agencies. There are also virtual, artificial intelligence benefit decision support tools that have been shown to increase high deductible plan adoption, as well as contributions to HSAs, FSAs, and retirement savings accounts.

5.) Post Enrollment Employee Feedback

Lastly, prepare for employee feedback on their benefits package and open enrollment experience with an anonymous survey that is sent once they’ve completed their enrollment – while it’s still fresh in their minds.

Surveys are a great way to understand how your employees feel about the open enrollment period and how you can better support their needs in the future. You’ll want to include questions about current benefits offerings, what aspects of open enrollment they found helpful and supportive, areas for improvement, and how they would like to receive information in the future.

The results of your outreach will help you prioritize the benefit changes or expansions that would be most impactful. Yes, survey fatigue is real! Consider offering your employees an incentive to complete the survey and how valuable their feedback is. If you have a wellness program that offers points for participation, you can provide additional program points for their participation.

How Often Should You Review Your Benefits Program?

If you’re curious about how your benefit plan and open enrollment practices stack up, let’s chat. VSMG partners with Arizona public sector employers on all employee benefit-related matters including benefits administration, benefits programs, budgeting, forecasting, wellness, enrollment support, and more. Contact us today!

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