Louise Norris

Creating Growth Opportunities for Open Enrollment

There’s no question as to why open enrollment (OE) is such a nerve-wracking time. The stakes are high: The last thing you want is for employees to enter OE without understanding their benefits. Between presenting important information, fielding employee questions, handling the mountain of paperwork that this time of year generates and keeping your business running steadily through it all, open enrollment can quickly become overwhelming if someone tries to manage it on their own.

If you’re thinking about having employees team up to handle OE, consider which tasks might be the easiest to delegate — particularly since some aspects of the work may involve accessing employees’ protected health information that must be kept confidential. Rather than risk your staff’s private information, it’s generally more secure to encourage one designated employee who normally handles benefits to partner with another staff member to tackle a variety of tasks related to OE. This eases the burden on the person in charge and helps their assistant better understand the company’s health benefits.

Here are three common OE tasks that you can delegate to transform your annual enrollment period from the most stressful part of the year into an opportunity to strengthen your company — just by leaning on the people around you.

1. Surveying Employees

Your health benefits are a major part of the compensation you provide. In fact, employees in general regard them as the most important part of a benefits package. Considering the resources you devote to crafting your health benefits package, you want to make sure that the offerings are ones your employees will actually use.

Maybe that extra perk that sat unused all year didn’t align with your employees’ interests. On the other hand, it’s possible they weren’t even aware the perk was available, or they didn’t understand how to use it. You won’t know if you don’t ask.

Designing and distributing a survey about your benefits package could be an ideal task to delegate to another employee. Since they’re participating in the benefits program themselves, they’ll have an idea of which questions employers might not normally think to include.

It could even be a good idea to have the employee create two separate surveys: one to be distributed well in advance of open enrollment to determine the sort of benefits your team would value the most, and another for after enrollment to ascertain how well your processes worked. You can have the employee distribute the surveys, but depending on the questions asked, handling employees’ responses may be best left to the HR decision-maker.

2. Explaining the Benefits Package

You might find that you have some employees who don’t normally handle the company benefits package but are still interested in learning more about it. They might already have a good understanding of health benefits and the open enrollment process — as well as other benefits options that you might not yet be offering. Or, they might just be curious and eager to learn more, which would make this a key employee development opportunity. It’s worth the effort of training these employees: Not only will you be able to verify that the information they have about the company’s benefits is accurate, but they can also then help explain the benefits to the rest of the team.

When you’re the person who normally handles benefits, training another person can give you valuable insight into how employees view their offerings. You’ll probably find that new questions and issues arise. Use those moments to learn which areas are confusing your workforce. Once the employee has a solid understanding of the benefits your company offers, they can help present the information to the rest of the team, and they might have some fresh ideas for the most effective ways to do so.

3. Fielding Employee Questions

Employee questions before and during open enrollment tend to run the gamut from simple to … well, not so simple. Once you’ve trained an employee on the details of your benefits package and enrollment processes, that person will be able to answer a wide range of questions. More complicated questions can go to the person in charge of benefits, but having a teammate to handle more routine questions will make a real difference. And depending on the question, employees might feel more comfortable talking with a peer.

Training another employee — or a few employees, depending on the size of the business — on the details of your benefits package and enrollment process is a win-win, providing an employee development opportunity as well as facilitating open enrollment. And every year as you prepare for OE, you have the opportunity to make the process easier for you and your employees — all the while ensuring your workforce is as strong as possible.

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