In 2021, Open Enrollment for employee benefits was met with an unprecedented rollout, as the majority of employees worked remotely and their personal and professional needs took a dramatic shift. As we approach Open Enrollment 2022, a new set of parameters will need to be met, with a mix of in-office and remote workers and an evolving set of benefits needs.
To prepare for another non-traditional Open Enrollment season, it’s helpful to get planning efforts into full swing with some time to spare.
Here are a few steps you can take to ensure a successful enrollment communications rollout in 2022 that helps reinforce employee values, curb their concerns, and reduce turnover rates in the organization.
Access the Necessary Action Items
Communicate changes to plan participants. With a thoughtful, informative and transparent approach to communication, employees can understand and even appreciate the most drastic changes to their benefits plans. Start by being clear about why plan changes are happening. It’s equally important to validate employee concerns in the process. Next, use multiple mediums to share the changes—including short memos to cover key changes, lengthier summaries for full details, informational videos, virtual and in-person town hall meetings, and a dedicated FAQ packet or page. Finally, offering decision support services that empower employees can help them visualize the bigger picture and provide them with the tools they need to confidently assess and select their benefits.
Remind employees of rules and regulations changes. It’s essential to communicate that some of the more liberal rules and regulations from 2021 will be going away in 2022. For example, federal legislation previously offered transitional relief to employees who were unable to use their FSAs due to the pandemic, permitting mid-year election changes, extending grace periods, and including a temporary increase in the maximum Dependent Care Assistance Plan (DCAP) age from 13 to 14. In addition, the dollar maximum for DCAP was increased by Congress from $5,000 to $10,500 in 2021. In 2022, however, many of these provisions and rules will revert back to their pre-pandemic status, and it’s important to communicate these changes transparently to employees.
Consider the non-active employee population. Open Enrollment can be a particularly frenzied period for HR professionals, with a large amount of activity occurring in a tight window of time. A lot of this activity is centered on active, in-person employees, which can cause non-active employees or non-employee groups (like retirees or individuals on leave) to be overlooked. Take the time to prepare OE materials for these groups in advance, to help cultivate inclusion and ensure there’s no confusion.
Map Out Virtual Open Enrollment Plans
The popularity of virtual Open Enrollment and benefits fairs skyrocketed in 2020, as a direct result of pandemic-related restrictions, and these comprehensive and convenient approaches to Open Enrollment don’t appear to be going away. Virtual benefits fairs, where employees and their families visit online vendor “booths,” help hybrid workplaces offer vital support and resources to employees, regardless of where they’re located. You can work with existing vendors on best practices to streamline the virtual Open Enrollment experience with tools and technologies that help employees navigate the decision-making process.
Set an Open Enrollment Schedule
Setting an Open Enrollment schedule is a great way to ensure things stay on track before you get too busy. Here’s a proposed agenda that takes you from summer straight into Open Enrollment season:
June - September: Develop a Strategy and Make a Plan
- List out goals and parameters for enrollment, outreach, and the use of virtual and digital resources.
- Carry out employee listening sessions to solicit feedback and address concerns in advance.
- Create a communications plan and collateral that addresses active and non-active employees, develop key messaging, and personalize the content and delivery channels.
September - October: Start Spreading OE Information and Materials
- Create and distribute a pre-enrollment one-pager in printed form and online.
- Offer employees and their families a virtual benefits fair.
- Disseminate an Open Enrollment packet in printed form and online.
November - December: Launch Your Open Enrollment Efforts
- Use a benefits portal to launch OE for 2-4 weeks.
- Continue to ramp up virtual opportunities for remote employees and non-active employee plan participants.
- Ensure that your New Hire material incorporates all the new benefits detailed to your current employees so you are presenting cohesive communications.
Lead Open Enrollment with Empathy
Above all else, continuously consider your employee’s stress levels during this year's Open Enrollment. You can’t possibly understand what each individual employee may be going through, so building empathy into the fiber of your OE efforts is essential to engaging everyone in your workforce. Show that you understand the anxieties and fears your employees may be feeling in every touchpoint, communication and OE offering.