“The success or failure of open enrollment can make the
employer more or less competitive” in the labor market, says
Robert Miller, SHRM-CP, HR manager for Chapman/Leonard
Studio Equipment Inc., a manufacturer of custom camera equipment in North Hollywood, Calif. That’s why smart HR leaders
are continually looking for new and different ways to engage
workers during this period. To that end, here are some tried-and-true tips to make the most of this crucial time.
Get Employees Ready
The annual benefits-election process starts well before any forms
are filled out. “You need to disseminate information to make
sure employees understand what’s available,” Miller says. “They
shouldn’t be asking basic questions about their coverage options
in open enrollment meetings; that should happen before open
Provide materials ahead of time so individuals can review
their options and formulate questions before open enrollment
begins. Delivery of these materials can occur through all avail-
able channels, including any online portals maintained by the
employer or by insurance carriers, brokers, consultants and other
Also, “Look to new options like Text2Engage [mobile mes-saging] and social media to provide reminders and support,”
suggests Peter Marcia, CEO of You Decide, a Duluth, Ga.-based
company that manages employer group voluntary benefits and
work/life programs. He says employees want to know four things
for each program:
• Why do I need the coverage?
• Which features fit my needs?
• What value does the program provide?
• How much is this going to cost me per paycheck?
Gamification and other cutting-edge educational innovations
hold promise but aren’t always widely available and dependable,
so focus on maximizing what current technology can provide
and addressing areas where it is falling short. “Find ways to simplify enrollment,” Marcia advises. He suggests that companies
use tech options that:
• Auto-fill fields.
• Allow users to easily move from one application to another.
• Provide a single landing page for all enrollment applications.
While the latest technology often gets a lot of attention, don’t
overlook more inexpensive—and effective—methods to prepare
and engage employees. Easy ways to get their attention include
by putting notices in paycheck envelopes and making videos
available via You Tube or Facebook or on screens in offices and
Alternatively, try creating a one-page information sheet that
defines key terms and publicizes contact names and numbers,
important websites, and a list of all the information needed to
complete required forms. That’s the approach favored by Nicole
Ojakian, SHRM-CP, director of human resources for financial
services firm Hanweck in New York City.
Cortland Partners has a slightly different focus when it comes
to educating employees about open enrollment benefits. Trina
It also means the bigger challenge for Cortland is helping peo-
ple leverage the wellness program, health care pricing data and
supporting activities, such as completing personal health profiles
that can earn them bonuses for their HSAs. White estimates that
40 percent to 50 percent of workers have completed profiles, but
she and her team are working to raise that to 80 percent to 90
Education efforts started early in the year, well before open
enrollment. The business provided short videos in English and
Spanish, a dedicated space on the company’s intranet, and
reminders to reinforce previous messages about the importance
of using urgent care centers rather than the emergency room and
how to use health care pricing data to shop for, say, a cost-effective MRI provider.
Prepare and deliver pre-enrollment
Use low-tech tools, including
written notices and fact sheets.
Consider also using new technological
tools to educate the workforce.
‘The success or failure of open
enrollment can make the employer
more or less competitive.’
—Robert Miller, SHRM-CP