Ready for Open Enrollment Season? Three Steps To Getting In Shape for a Great Season

For HR folks, the fall is sort of like their own version of the retail holiday season or the big football final…that’s because it’s open enrollment, the time when employees are able to make major changes to their benefits plans without penalties.

And just like retailers start planning their holiday promotions early, so should the HR team begin planning how they will communicate both the existence of open enrollment and what it means to their team.

Here’s how to make the open enrollment period smooth for you and beneficial for your employees.


  1. Finalize your options.

Chances are good that you have already been working on determining what benefits you will be offering and the rate at which you will cover them. For example, maybe this is the year you add a wellness benefit or pet insurance. You also want to make sure you have a robust slate of health choices that might include dental, vision, and alternative medicine; as well as insurance, such as life and short-term and long-term disability.

With employment rates continuing to be high, benefits are just one additional way that you can strengthen your position in attracting and retaining employees.


  1. Create your communications material.

Even if you have the most admirable benefits plan in the world, it won’t help if your employees don’t know or understand what’s available to them—and one survey found that one-third of them do not!

From co-pays to premiums, the insurance world can be full of unfamiliar terms. Take health insurance—many employees can’t explain how a high-deductible plan might improve their financial situation. And many employees might never take the time to recognize what benefits are available to them. That’s why communication is vital during this time. Here are some pieces you should create:

  • A cheat sheet for common insurance terms: This would be an at-a-glance explanation of what all the terms mean, with examples of how they work in the real world. So, you could give a couple of explanations of how a high-deductible plan would play out for someone who uses little healthcare, compared to someone who has an ongoing health condition.


  • A summary of new insurance offerings: Finally offering massage therapy or financial wellness counseling? This is the time to tout the new benefits you’ll be offering to get employees excited about the package your workplace provides.


  • An explanation of existing offerings: During onboarding, most HR teams make a point to cover the benefit packages. But when employees are being bombarded with so much new information, they might not take the time to really dig in and find out what’s being offered and how they can take advantage of it. Open enrollment is the ideal time to refresh their memory on specifics. They might just end up with a renewed sense of satisfaction, just because you’re more thoroughly communicating what already exists.


  • A summary of total compensation (benefits + salary): Many employees don’t realize the value of their benefits package—estimated at 30% as most HR professionals know—but that disconnect means that they might feel underpaid if they don’t include these perks in their total compensation scenario. So depending on your bandwidth, it can be incredibly powerful to show exactly how much the company is kicking in, in terms of premium cost sharing, retirement program matches, disability insurance, and other programs you offer.


  1. Use multiple communication vehicles.

Gone are the days when HR could send out a big fat packet and hope/expect that everyone would read it. Today’s employees are used to getting their information in multiple ways. But the good news is that it doesn’t necessarily mean a ton more work for you; it just means thinking of creative ways to repackage the existing elements. The best way to make sure your communications vehicles hit their target market is through a strategy you can call COPE: Create once, publish everywhere. Some suggestions for broadcasting the materials you’ve created include:

  • Emails that drive them to your intranet, where materials reside online
  • A video campaign where you cover one type of benefit at a time and send the links to employees to watch at their leisure
  • A webinar where you present the information and they can send in real-time questions, with the option to replay later
  • A town hall style meeting where you can present and answer questions (done virtually if needed, depending on if you have a distributed workforce)
  • A drip campaign that supplements each of these by “teasing” what’s coming and meeting the need for “snackable” content that employees can consume quickly, then come back for more


As open enrollment season approaches, now is the time to prepare for your busy period. The great news is that it will wrap up just in time for you to enjoy the holidays.