It usually comes at the busiest time of the year, when HR pros—along with everyone else—are tending to year-end deadlines and preparing for the winter holidays. Open enrollment is an inevitable autumn ritual that can cause great stress for HR—and for your organization’s employees.
Here are eight tips for surviving the season:
1. Set deadlines strategically. About three-quarters of your employees will put off their enrollments until the season’s last days, so choose last days that aren’t your busiest. Some tips: Don’t end open enrollment on a Monday (the busiest day for enrollments), a Friday (a favorite day off) or the day before a holiday. Avoid giving employees until midnight to enroll on the final day; end the season at 5 pm midweek.
2. Staff the phones sufficiently to handle the calls you will receive. On Mondays, for example, double up. And don’t assume you’ll receive fewer calls because you’re offering online enrollment. Employees will still have questions.
3. Include bilingual staff among your call takers to speak with employees whose English isn’t fluent enough to discuss sensitive enrollment information.
4. Teach the call takers everything they need to know to answer the most frequently asked questions. That will eliminate a lot of message-taking and call-returning.
5. Send written material about enrollment options and plan changes to employees’ homes, where most of them will make their choices with input from their spouses.
6. Communicate about benefits changes and deadlines in straightforward, jargon-free language that focuses on the facts. Don’t sugarcoat information about added costs or premium increases.
7. Keep it personal. Choosing benefits is sensitive and can feel risky to your employees. Communicate in a way that explains what the choices and changes mean to them and their families.
8. Start planning now for next year. Your easiest open enrollment season will be the one that you’ve been talking to employees about all year.