Any HR professional currently in the throes of planning for open enrollment season would agree that this is an incredibly stressful time of year. Not only are they tasked with their usual responsibilities—retirement, recruitment, new hire onboarding, and payroll—but they’re also charged with the additional duty of ensuring that employees have all the information and materials they need to select the healthcare benefits plan best suited for themselves and their families. And outbound communications are only the half of it; HR pros spend hours upon hours fielding inbound questions and requests from employees who, wisely, want to make the right decision when it comes to their healthcare coverage.
While longer hours and greater responsibility tied to open enrollment contribute to higher stress levels for most HR professionals, they are particularly taxing for small HR teams. In many mid- to large-size organizations, it is not uncommon for one HR person to manage open enrollment for hundreds of people—on top of everything else they have going on. For these individuals, it’s critical that they develop a strategy and plan that will not only set them up for a successful open enrollment season, but also help them maintain their sanity.
Here are three tips for navigating open enrollment for HR professionals with limited support:
1. Plan in Advance as Much as Possible
While decisions about which healthcare options the employer will offer may not be made until later in the year, there are things that HR teams can do early on so they can launch into action as soon as executives confirm their strategies.
Once open enrollment season from the prior year ends, the HR team can examine what went well—and what didn’t—to determine its strategy for the year ahead. For instance, they can determine as early as the spring which communication avenues—whether they’re videos, meetings, e-mails, texts, or a combination of those—are most efficient and cost effective when articulating critical open enrollment information.
2. Use Multifaceted Materials
To minimize the number of materials distributed to employees, HR professionals should take advantage of documents that contain interactive links to related, helpful content. Not only will this strategy cut down on time spent circulating information, but it will also reduce the number of questions HR teams receive from employees who can get the details they need quickly from hyperlinked resources.
Therefore, rather than spending time explaining industry terms and what different plan aspects mean, HR pros can focus their time engaging employees on what options may be best for employees’ personal needs and circumstances.
3. Enlist Third Party Help
HR managers should assign responsibilities to their partners (such as brokers or plan representatives) in the early planning stages so everyone understands their role and is ready to execute when the time comes.
HR professionals who lack support and the means to hire full-time enrollment help might consider working with a partner who can serve as an extension of their team (or one-man shop). These third-party partners can help with various functions, from material preparation to providing one-to-one education and personalized engagement to employees on their options, and because they tend to be flexible in terms of cost, HR teams can get the help they need without breaking the bank. HR should vet their partners for availability, accessibility, flexibility, and knowledge of benefits in general and the company’s benefits in particular.
By planning ahead, using multiple communication channels, and choosing the right partners, HR teams with limited resources can not only keep up with the demands that open enrollment season presents, but also ensure that their employees make the right decisions about their coverage.
Bart Yancey is the cofounder and CEO of DirectPath. Since 2004, he has led its growth into one of the top strategic employee engagement, health care transparency and compliance companies for Fortune 1000 employers. An industry leader in employee education and benefits communication, Bart was appointed to serve on the Alabama Health Insurance Exchange Study Commission by Governor Robert Bentley. He is an active member of the Monday Morning Quarterback Club charity and the Southern 7 Chapter of Young Presidents’ Organization. Bart is a graduate of Samford University.