Businessolver Blog

5 Ways for Benefits Professionals to Prepare for Annual Enrollment

5 Ways for Benefits Professionals to Prepare for Annual Enrollment
Posted on Monday, June 26, 2023 by Sarah Warren

With so many employees to enroll and benefits to explain, it can be overwhelming to think about all the work that needs to be done. But with the right technology and resources in place today, this could be your smoothest AE yet.

For many organizations, annual enrollment season is just around the corner (we see you, HR friends!) and it’s almost always a hectic time, especially if you’ve made changes to the plan offerings or employee costs.

But it’s not too late to prepare yourselves, your employees, and your support networks across the organization to help make open enrollment flow as smoothly as possible. With the right technology, communication plans, and resources in place, this could be a less hectic time of year, even if it is “busy season.”

Here are five ways you and your HR peers can prepare for a chill annual enrollment.

1. Finalize your benefits offerings as soon as possible

Before you start planning for the upcoming annual enrollment period, take the time to review your existing benefits package. Look at what benefits are being used frequently, which ones aren’t, and whether there are any gaps in your offering. You can use this information to determine what you may need to change or add to your benefits package to better meet the needs of your employees. Consider pulling in employee survey feedback as well to gain a better understanding of your population’s current needs.

When polling our current clients, we’ve found that many are investigating adding supplemental benefit programs to their total package. Those include:

  • New condition management programs like Hello Heart or SWORD
  • Pet insurance for furry friends like Metlife Pet Insurance or Pet’s Best
  • Legal programs such as those provided by ARAG
  • Identity protection such as those provided by Allstate or Norton Lifelock

Additionally, our Empathy data tells us that flexibility and parental benefits top the list of most empathetic benefits. Consider what you are bringing forward in benefits that support fertility or even how you support new parents that need to pay for childcare.

2. Communicate early and often

It’s no secret that employees are confused about their benefits. But as confused as they are, these same employees are hungry to engage with their benefits—they want to enroll in the best-fit plans for them. The barrier, though, often lies in understanding what’s available to them, why it’s relevant, and how they can stack multiple benefits in their favor.

One of the biggest mistakes that HR professionals make during annual enrollment is failing to communicate early enough. Don’t wait until the last minute to start sharing information about the enrollment process and the available benefits. Instead, start communicating early and often about the enrollment period and the benefits that will be available. This will give employees ample time to review their options and ask any questions they may have.

Technology can make this easy! With the right communication tools in place, all you need to do is figure out how often you want to send communications, what you want to inform your employees about, and hit the “automate” easy button to send those communications out.

Speaking of delivery… make sure you’re honoring employee communication preferences. Leverage a technology that requests their preferred communication methods from day one, to ensure the best possible delivery of those important messages.

3. Utilize technology to work smarter (so you can rest harder)

Make use of technology to streamline the enrollment process and help keep your employees connected to the right information at the right time.

Decision support is critical to not only educating your employees but also helping them select the right fit plans. For example, within our own technology we found startling results: When decision support was in place at enrollment, 60% of employees elected an HSA alongside their HDHP. Without decision support, that attach rate plummeted to 20%.

Additionally, make sure your technology is set up to deliver your benefits information in a way that is easy to understand. Our own UX experts have spent a lot of time and research to understand how employees navigate through a website to look for critical benefits information. This means creating a consistent experience throughout your benefits portal, delivering key plan and eligibility information, and including important information like documents required for dependent verification.

4. Consider AI Your Best Friend

More than likely, you are a mighty (but small) team. You don’t have to go benefits administration (or enrollment) alone! Artificial Intelligence has progressed so much over the past few years and can play a big supporting role in your annual enrollment needs. Leverage a technology solution that includes a virtual assistant to help support enrollment questions that would otherwise come your way.

Our own benefits assistant, Sofia, takes 50% of her chats during peak annual enrollment season. She generally sees 35% of those chats on nights and weekends when you are getting a well-earned break. Sofia is also now working with ChatGPT to refine her responses and answer more complex questions so you can focus more of your energy on strategy and your people.

5. Gather and listen to employee feedback

Finally, make sure to solicit feedback from your employees after the enrollment period is over. This can help you identify areas where you can improve the process or the benefits being offered. You can collect feedback through an online survey or by holding focus groups.

And it’s critical that you bring consistency to those survey responses year over year to allow for proper trending and benchmarking.

With thorough preparation and the right tools, annual enrollment doesn’t have to be a headache. By reviewing your current offerings, communicating effectively, utilizing technology, training your team, and soliciting feedback, you can help ensure that your employees have a smooth and successful enrollment experience.