It’s getting to be that time of year again…open enrollment, the period when eligible employees sign up for health insurance and other benefits for the coming year. Open enrollment can be hectic for employees and HR managers alike. But you can make the process run more smoothly with these five tips for successful open enrollment. open enrollment

1. Clearly communicate open enrollment dates and timelines. Send your employees a save the date email, and post an announcement and a calendar for open enrollment in public places where they will be seen, as well as on the company intranet if you have one.

2. Allow adequate time for employees to review all relevant materials and make choices. Aim to have the materials in employees' hands at least a week prior to the enrollment period, or longer if you have employees traveling or working remotely. The enrollment period itself should last around two weeks, with adjustments for the number of employees and their locations.

3. Highlight essential information. Group health plan participants and beneficiaries are entitled by law to receive certain information about the plan, including costs, in the form of a summary of benefits and coverage. If the insurance carrier does not assume responsibility for providing the summary of benefits and coverage, the employer must provide it at the same time that open enrollment materials are distributed. Be sure to confirm any contractual arrangement with the carrier to provide this document and consult with a knowledgeable employment law attorney if you have any questions regarding compliance. You may also consider highlighting important changes in either a separate document or page in the benefits booklet which will be delivered to employees.  

4. Make enrollment user-friendly. If, like most organizations, you're using an online enrollment portal, make sure that employees understand what to do. Provide training if necessary, and consider dedicating a computer in the office to open enrollment so employees can ask questions as they go. Make sure that your portal includes access to any calculators or tools employees need to make decisions or determine withholding amounts. You may also want to pre-populate the portal with your employees' current benefit selections, which allows them to simply confirm or make changes. Be sure to send an email confirmation of choices after the employee completes enrollment; if something is wrong, allow the employee to go back in to his or her account and correct it before enrollment ends.  

5. Don't overlook the human touch. Make sure that there is a human resources or benefits rep accessible to employees throughout the enrollment period who can answer questions and serve as a resource. Allocating staff time to this is a wise investment that will limit frustration and ensure a better experience for employees as they enroll.

While no open enrollment is likely to be entirely without challenge, careful attention and planning ahead of time can go a long way toward limiting any problems or glitches. Remember, too, your broker or carrier rep is your best resource, so actively engage these professionals throughout. Finally, visit www.HR360.com for more information on HR and benefits management, including sample open enrollment announcements and templates.

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