Open enrollment is always a crucial time of year for HR folks. And this year, the stakes are even higher: you’ve likely expanded your benefits offerings in response to Covid, and are looking for innovative ways to support employees through this new normal. 

But there’s a catch. All of those new resources will go to waste if no one uses them. And spoiler alert: employees are still confused about their benefits, and they’re not any happier or healthier despite the new resources you’ve offered them. (What’s worse? Their lack of benefits engagement is costing both of you money.) 

So this open enrollment will be all about maximizing your benefits investment—by driving awareness around new offerings, and helping employees choose and use the benefits that will best serve them in the upcoming year.

But those goals are easier said than done, which is why we hosted an Open Enrollment Opening Ceremony last month: to embrace the Olympic spirit this summer, celebrate the marathon that is open enrollment, and offer our community real insights to help make this open enrollment easier. 

Zoë Harte, Chief People Officer at Upwork, and Joey Price, CEO of Jumpstart:HR, had an enthralling convo that touched on everything from supporting the sandwich generation to reaching off-the-radar employees. Our community also participated via questions on the chat, offering their own helpful suggestions. As a result, we were left with a thought-provoking dialogue and a laundry list of strategies to tackle this unusual open enrollment season. 

If you missed it, you can watch the full recording here. We’ve also teased out the six best takeaways from our speakers and audience below. 

1. How to navigate this year’s challenges  

As optimistic and upbeat as HR professionals tend to be, we can’t pretend that year was without complications. So naturally, our discussion quickly veered to the tumultuous nature of 2021, and how it translates into people management and benefits engagement

The pandemic is still the largest roadblock to a successful open enrollment period, from a communications standpoint (navigating remote and hybrid teams) to benefits offerings in general.

The good news is that employees are more aware and want more knowledge about open enrollment — 91% of employees know it’s important to understand their benefits, and 1 in 5 want more benefits education.  

Joey echoed this, explaining, “We have a more aware workforce. We have a more nuanced workforce. Gone are the days where you shoved three plans in front of your employees and they just picked one because it looks and sounds good. Employees are starting to scrutinize and wonder ‘Am I spending the right money? Am I getting the most for my dollar?’

Make sure to take advantage of that thirst for knowledge during open enrollment! Help your employees understand all their available options (healthcare and other benefits), show them cost comparisons, and use real-life examples. (Hint hint: ALEX Benefits Counselor can help with all of these tactics). 

2. Engage your hard-to-reach employees 

This year, connection is more critical and more difficult than ever. We have to contend with remote employees, changing safety protocols, hybrid teams, postponed returns to the office and more. As such, people are learning about their open enrollment options from here, there and everywhere. So it’s no wonder that quite a few of our 400+ attendees asked our speakers for tips on reaching team members who don’t work in a traditional office.

For exact details on using these strategies to reach your people, tune into the entire recording.

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3. Make the benefits experience personal 

Whether your organization has 10 or 10,000 employees, framing the story of benefits offerings so it’s relatable (and frankly, understandable) is all about stepping into someone else’s shoes.  But let’s be honest, it’s a lot harder to “virtually” step into those kicks, isn’t it? And HR teams already have a significant amount on their plates without adding “reinvent the open enrollment wheel” to their long lists. 

It’s all about working smarter, not harder, so we touched on personalization and how it leads to better benefits engagement without lots more work. 

And here’s what’s great about our Jellyvision community; they lit up the Zoom chat with their own suggestions on personalization. 

Want to send your own postcards? Check out our open enrollment marketing templates.

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4. Embrace new HR trends 

We can’t pretend that the workplace hasn’t been completely upended over the past two years — it has. That means our approach to everything, especially HR, needs to evolve with the times. 

The upside to all this change is that it’s forcing us to reevaluate how we offer benefits, what benefits we offer and how to best get our team to engage with these offerings — not just at open enrollment but all year long. 

With the proliferation of Zoom and WFH, we have a front-row seat to better understand the support our employees and their families need. You can use this intimate knowledge to lead your people to the right types of benefits and resources, such as eldercare for your sandwich generation employees. 

5. Focus on year-round benefits engagement  

While the attention was on open enrollment during this discussion, we also dipped into the topic of year-round benefits engagement. (They should go hand-in-hand!) As you know, your job doesn’t stop when open enrollment ends. 

Joey hit the nail on the head, illuminating the need to continue the benefits conversation year-round.

6. Remember, we’re all in this together

Cue that annoyingly catchy High School Musical anthem. It’s corny but true — we’re all indeed in this together! Tough situations seem a lot easier when you chat with folks going through the same journey and crowdsource solutions. That’s why we focused on bringing together our HR community during this event to share — occasionally commiserate — and support each other as we start open enrollment. 

Our audience chimed in to explain how they psych themselves up for this time of year.  

We also asked attendees to nominate their colleagues who are “going for the gold.” Make sure to follow us on social media for a highlight reel of these medal-worthy HR superstars.

Make Open Enrollment a Slam Dunk 

All the sports puns aside, open enrollment is a challenging event this year. But benefits engagement platforms, like ALEX, help you reach your team members while they’re picking their plans during open enrollment and all-year-round. 

Catch the entire conversation for even more juicy tips and tricks on benefits engagement and open enrollment. 

ALEX boosts benefits engagement—during enrollment and year-round.

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