Open enrollment 2021: Preparing for a different kind of benefits selection season

Tuesday September 8th, 2020

Given the impact of COVID-19, open enrollment 2021 will look a little different than it has during past seasons.

Employers will need to adjust in a variety of ways, from going virtual to addressing employees’ new concerns over health care coverage. Here are some best practices for benefits selection season this fall.

Ensure that your benefits align with new needs

The COVID-19 pandemic has not only changed the way we live and work, but it has also impacted the way people access health care and other support and resources.

This year, employees may be looking for expanded coverage across areas like telehealth, mental health services and other well-being programs. PLANSPONSOR has reported that flexible, voluntary benefits that can help reduce costs or fill in coverage gaps may also be more attractive this year than in the past. 

Host a virtual benefits fair

If your staff members are used to gathering up for in-person benefits luncheons, they might not know what to expect now that their entire team is working from home. Instead of simply distributing info packets in PDF format, schedule a video meeting during which you can present the updated information and take questions. 

The more visually engaging you can make your presentation, the better. The usual tables and charts may be too hard to read on a smaller screen, especially when participants are in view. Divide the material up so it’s easier to digest, and make good use of visual aids to help keep everyone’s attention. 

Find ways to minimize complexity and anxiety

The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) advises employers to consider the tone of their message. Active open enrollment reminders can come off as alarming, especially when workers are concerned about job security and stability. 

To avoid sending out notices like, "You must make new elections or you will lose your benefits," SHRM suggests looking into passive open enrollment this year. With passive enrollment options and other evergreen elections that roll over from year to year, workers have fewer decisions to make, which can help ease stress during an already stressful time

Whichever option your company chooses, PlanSponsor recommends crafting communications that “balance empathy and economics” to make workers feel secure and well taken care of.

Communicate early and often

While some workers may prefer a more streamlined experience, others may exhibit a higher level of interest and engagement during open enrollment 2021. PLANSPONSOR suggests creating specific content dedicated to employees who may be experiencing challenging circumstances, such as a partner’s loss of a job with benefits. 

It’s also crucial to begin sharing these types of organized and easy-to-navigate resources as early as possible, to give everyone a chance to take in the new information. SHRM warns against cramming complex facts, figures and forms into just a few days. Instead, the organization recommends working with a three-week timeframe

Open enrollment 2021 is certainly set to be an atypical experience. But you’re not on your own when it comes to facilitating a successful benefits selection process.

With the benefits enrollment functionality built into iSolved, you can simplify the open enrollment process this year and into the future. Smooth out the complex task of administering benefits with an all-in-one HCM platform that delivers a better employee experience, by design.