When it comes to human resources and employer responsibilities, fall is a busy season as open enrollment begins, and employees make essential decisions about benefits for the upcoming year. In 2020, however, COVID-19 has added an extra layer to the process, as many employees are still working remotely, and companies are embracing new work procedures and communicating virtually.

So, until business practices return to in-person office settings where face-to-face meetings can take place, here are a few helpful tips for navigating open enrollment for your employees amid COVID-19.

4 Tips for a Successful Open Enrollment Season During COVID-19

1. Consider a Webinar or Virtual Training Program

Since many employees may be dispersed in various locations this year, it will likely be essential to consider providing open enrollment information through webinars or virtual training sessions. A recent survey by Mercer revealed that among the top three changes employers intend to make to the open enrollment process during COVID-19, 32% said it would be the use of different media and communication channels.

2. Host a Q&A Virtual Meeting for Employees to Ask Questions

As many employers have embraced and are fully functioning through daily or weekly Zoom meetings with employees, it might be useful to schedule one or two Zoom Q&A sessions for teams to be able to receive open enrollment information and ask questions that can benefit everyone. This could be combined with an informative webinar presentation or as a follow-up meeting after employees have had a chance to review and process benefits information.

3. Enhance Communications and Reminders

Especially since employees are not on-site where daily reminders can be given in the hallway or through office signage, it’s important to organize and schedule some essential email reminders to keep open enrollment deadlines top of mind for employees. Also, keep in mind that with increased emails and virtual communications, you’ll want to make sure your open enrollment communications stand out so that they don’t get lost in inboxes. Use clear and clever subject lines that promote a sense of urgency so that employees know and understand key dates and deadlines for completing the open enrollment process.

4. Be Prepared for Additional Questions

It’s likely that COVID-19 and its ongoing uncertainties can lead to new or additional open enrollment questions. Being available and prepared for employee questions will help you be flexible and responsive, which can make a lasting impact on your employees during the enrollment season.

Who’s at the open enrollment table?

It’s a big table. Those involved in open enrollment can include business owners or managers, human resources staff, insurance brokers, payroll processors, and third-party administrators.

The insurance broker is a very important guest at the table. The broker will engage with all applicable insurance carriers and will negotiate the rates and plan designs of the insurance policies that the employer wishes to offer. Plans offered can vary and be numerous, such as medical, dental, vision, life, disability, and ancillary policies, such as cancer, accident, and critical illness. There may also be multiple brokers involved.

Third-party administrators can include several service providers, such as benefit administrators, HSA banking institutions, COBRA, and flexible spending account and payroll service vendors.

Once the benefit offerings are chosen, the next step is to communicate with and educate the employees. This can be done in various ways, such as online enrollment platforms, benefit packets, presentations, and webinars. Following this part of the process will be the actual enrollment period where employees select the plans.

When the enrollment period is complete, it’s time for the behind-the-scenes magic. The enrollment data is provided to the various insurance carriers. This is typically coordinated between the employer’s human resources staff and the insurance broker. The broker will work with the carriers to enroll all employees in their coverages at the levels elected. If additional information or documentation is needed, the broker will coordinate this communication.

This entire open enrollment process must be done prior to the effective date of the new plan year. The carriers need time to get all employees installed into their systems and any applicable insurance cards mailed to employees. Lastly, all elections affect payroll when an employee pays a portion of or all the insurance premium. Adjustments to employee payroll deductions must be made before the first payroll of the new plan year.

Let Us Carry the Burden of Open Enrollment

If the open enrollment season adds a little more pressure to your plate, our team is here for you. Contact us today to learn how LBMC Employment Partners can guide you in successfully executing your annual benefits enrollment obligations—whether through helpful tools or our friendly team of HR experts and professionals.