Open Enrollment during the COVID-19 pandemic will be unlike any other in recent memory. Many organizations are still trying to recover from extended closures and maintain safe working environments, while employees may be unsure about their job security and maneuvering new home-life norms. And with open enrollment representing one of the largest touch-points HR has with its employees each year, communication is both of high importance and increasingly challenging.

So where does Open Enrollment fall on your priority list? Let’s talk about disruption, perception and outcomes.

Change is Inevitable

Employers can expect significant disruptions to open enrollment this year. Consider unavoidable factors like the compound coronavirus + flu season that will no doubt occur this fall. Consider also employees’ new work-life balance and availability to attend and engage in additional meetings. These two scenarios exemplify the multitude of potential disruptors stemming from COVID-19 this enrollment period.

Many organizations are expected to hold entirely virtual open enrollments due to health-related disruptions. For some employer groups, however, an entirely virtual experience won’t work. Employees’ technology skill levels, language barriers and past expectations will all influence what open enrollment looks like across different organizations.

As MJ worked to enhance its digital open enrollment solution, we started to see a pattern emerge as we connected with our partners. This year many groups would forego significant plan changes due to the unique inability to effectively communicate come open enrollment season. We realized that our partners, now more than ever, needed a solution that would supplement and exceed the engagement capabilities of a traditional enrollment. So how does one balance almost certain disruption with employee needs?

The Employee Experience

It’s up to employers to decide how to pair virtual enrollment solutions with other resources to meet the unique needs of your employees and the organization as a whole. Use this as an opportunity to boost morale, educate and engage.

From an employee perspective, this is not only the time of year to enroll, but to brush-up on benefits. Consider your opportunities during this time of year. They include educating staff, promoting your benefits, engaging a potentially disengaged workforce, improving employees’ work-life balance with a more suitable benefit selection, and so much more.

How to Prepare

Preparation will be the key factor for a successful open enrollment this year. We’ve identified four engagement priorities that will influence a successful open enrollment season, whether in-person or virtual.

  1. Promotional Campaigns
  2. Benefit Education
  3. Open Enrollment Informational Sessions
  4. Questions and Answers

Take an inventory of what communication methods you’ve used during open enrollment in the past for each of these four categories. If you have a solution for each, you’re already in a great place!

Next, you’ll want to consider the distribution method. In other words, how will the message be distributed to the employees. Is it a digital or physical method?

Now that you have the inventory of what you’ve used in the past, it’s time to update that plan to ensure it fits within the new 2020 restrictions.

Time to Prepare

We urge you to review the following strategies and consider how similar initiatives might improve your open enrollment efforts.

  • Confer with management about any operational restrictions that may influence open enrollment (i.e., if in-person staff is limited within the workplace, in-person enrollment is likely not an option).
  • Meet with stakeholders to solidify what the enrollment process will look like, including whether it will be entirely virtual, in-person with social distancing or some other combination of strategies.
  • Debrief managers early in the enrollment process and provide them with easy-to-share communication tools to ensure the message is consistent and frequent.
  • Communicate to employees about open enrollment through multiple channels. Consider using videos, mail-home postcards, or digital materials to ensure employees have all the information they need, both virtually and physically, if delivered in a safe and responsible way.

Virtual enrollment has been trending for several years, and the COVID-19 pandemic is helping to solidify its prominence. However, while increasing necessary, virtual communications can be costly and burdensome to build.

MJ Insurance has taken the guess work out of open enrollment planning for our partners. We are now offering Benefits Engage! Benefits Engage is our completely virtual, and free, Open Enrollment communications suite that fits perfectly into a year with too many imperfections. We look forward to sharing Benefits Engage with you and your team!