As a business owner or a manager in charge of employees, are you ready to handle the upcoming open enrollment for employee benefits? Although the COVID-19 pandemic seems to slow time down by eliminating normal activities, that benefits sign-up task, in reality, is just around the corner.
As the third quarter of 2020 comes to a close, businesses are starting to create plans for 2021. And while there are many restrictions against large group gatherings, the idea that your business can easily run employee benefits open enrollment the same as in previous years seems far-fetched.
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. Procrastinating on enrollment planning can actually cause more issues than it solves.
Organizational leaders should review the following strategies and initiatives to improve their open enrollment efforts:
- 1. Confer with ownership or management about any operational restrictions that may influence open enrollment (i.e., if public access or in-person staff is limited within the workplace, in-person enrollment is likely not an option).
- 2. Meet with stakeholders to discuss and solidify what the enrollment process will look like, including whether it will be entirely online/virtual, in-person with social distancing, or some other combination of strategies.
- 3. Debrief managers early in the enrollment process, and encourage them to communicate frequently and actively to employees about the upcoming open enrollment. Inform all stakeholders (including anyone to whom an employee may reach out to about open enrollment questions) about the enrollment process. These front-line faces and voices should know where to find the answers to any topic, including:
- a. Benefits effective date
- b. Enrollment period
- c. What happens to furloughed employees’ benefits
- d. How plan contributions work during extended closures
- 4. Communicate to employees about open enrollment through multiple channels. Consider using videos, mail-home postcards, emails, PDFs and other materials to ensure employees have all the information they need.
Employees rely upon your benefits plans to make their lives easier, and count this valuable employer support as a critical differentiator in their employment decisions. Solid preparation will be key for a successful open enrollment this year. Solidifying the ‘who, what, where, when, how and why’ of this information early will help keep everyone on the same page, and aid in building up your employer brand.
(written by: Nelson)