Avoid These 2021 Open Enrollment Landmines

by | Sep 30, 2020 | HR and Culture

You might guess that tackling 2021 open enrollment amid this year’s upheaval would require an innovative approach. Yet as our 2021 State of the Benefits Experience Survey revealed, HR is planning on many of the same tools, tactics, and techniques that have fueled OEs past. What gives?

In this two-part series, we’ll explore how HR plans to execute OE this year, and why it may not be enough. We’ll unpack the problems plaguing your benefits strategies and the simplest ways to fix them. And, we’ll reveal why this is so much more than a time for “just hosting it all on Zoom.” Instead, it’s an opportunity to overhaul an outdated system for employee good in all the years to come.

The biggest problem with your OE plans

Our 2021 State of the Benefits Experience Report is a comprehensive review of a survey sent to over 9K HR professionals in the summer of 2020. Their responses shed light on some of the most significant problems HR faces going into this year’s OE.

For one thing, employees just aren’t “getting” your OE communications.
The HR pros we surveyed rated their benefits education strategies at a 3 out of 5. “Not bad,” you might say. But what surprised us most was how many stale solutions made their list of go-to education and communication tools.

Our survey found that when it comes to benefits education, 89% were using benefits booklets and guides, 86% were using benefits presentations, and 42% were using benefits fairs. Additionally, 90% will use a benefits portal or website—although most said accessing their full benefits package would require the use of 2-4 separate websites.

Seeing the popularity of these solutions would be one thing if HR was satisfied with its education strategy. Instead, our respondents said they saw room for improvement. That rating of 3 out of 5 for benefits education (a solid C+) success indicates HR should be relying on new tools during 2021 open enrollment and beyond, rather than old-school booklets, presentations, and fairs.

The story is the same when it comes to communicating benefits information. HR teams are falling behind the rest of the world when using SMS, push notifications, and chat tools to communicate.

On HR’s list of tools are enrollment materials (98%), in-person meetings (77%), email (97%), and intranet (68%). About 7% use SMS messages, 21% use app notifications, and 13% use Slack, Teams, or other chat systems.

Another sign there’s room for improvement: our survey found that HR pros spend an average of 9 hours per week assisting employees with their benefits. Even worse, the most frequently-asked question was “finding support contact info when [employees] have employee benefit requests.” These aren’t complicated problems of spousal coverage or billing loopholes. Employes are stumbling at the very first stage of benefits understanding. Can you imagine a stronger indicator that benefits education isn’t working?

The benefits you must highlight during 2021 open enrollment

As we continue setting the stage for an unusual OE, let’s consider what’s at stake. Employees need their benefits like never before. Americans are in a mental health crisis, witnessing social unrest, and facing financial instability. For many, attention spans are shortened by the same forces; new work arrangements, caregiving, childcare needs, and more. All these pulls make it more challenging to get your most important messages through. So, it may be helpful to narrow your focus. What do employees need right now? We can find two easy answers in benefits you likely already offer.

  • Virtual care, including telemedicine, saw a bump in public perception and utilization during the pandemic. In our survey, 89% of respondents reported placing greater importance on virtual healthcare due to the pandemic. If employers are seeing the utility of virtual medicine at a higher rate than ever, shouldn’t that emphasis be passed on to employees, as well? Telemedicine is typically an underutilized benefit. As reopenings make doctors’ visits seem like a better idea, employees might forget the ease and cost-savings of a virtual visit. Yet we know that virtual medicine can save employees up to $120 per visit, on average, regardless of what’s going on in the world. This year is an ideal time to emphasize your telemedicine benefit (if you’re one of the 75% of employers who already offer it).
  • This OE is ideal for focusing on mental health benefits as well, as employee mental health is in crisis. According to the CDC, 40% of US adults reported struggling with mental health or substance use as recently as late June. Specific populations, including young adults, Hispanic persons, black persons, essential workers, unpaid caregivers for adults, and those receiving treatment for preexisting psychiatric conditions, were disproportionately affected. In light of this, it’s clear that employees must know how to access mental health support. But the substance use, financial, legal, and family support resources in your Employee Assistance Program (EAP) are also critical. Yet in our survey, most respondents said they did not believe employees knew about their full EAP offering. Seven percent reported they did not think employees knew about their EAP at all. Given our current crisis, you can’t afford to let EAP slide for another year. Mental health benefits deserve our emphasis in 2021.

OE is coming. Are you ready?

The good news is this: OE is a time to get ahead of these problems. It’s not too late to plan for a knockout OE that tackles this unusual enrollment period head-on and deals with predictable problems before they ever rear their heads. In our next post, we’ll detail insights from our survey you can use to inform your OE planning.

Related Posts

Announcing the 2021 State of the Benefits Experience Report

Announcing the 2021 State of the Benefits Experience Report

What’s happening today—and tomorrow—in employee benefits? Our 2021 State of the Benefits Experience Report reveals where HR stands at this critical time, and where they plan to go in the year ahead.
How Employee Feedback Helped Us Plan Our Return to Work

How Employee Feedback Helped Us Plan Our Return to Work

To plan our return to work, we took the time to research, understand, and share ideas. Most importantly, we asked our employees: what would make them feel safe at work?
Introducing The New HealthJoy 2.0

Introducing The New HealthJoy 2.0

Today we're debuting the new HealthJoy 2.0. The all-new HealthJoy lays the foundation for us to continue to remove the complexity from being healthy.
[gravityforms id=9]
<div class='gf_browser_unknown gform_wrapper' id='gform_wrapper_9' ><form method='post' enctype='multipart/form-data' id='gform_9' action='/blog/2021-open-enrollment-mistakes/'> <div class='gform_heading'> <h3 class='gform_title'>10 Benefits Presentation Tips from TED Talks eBook - 2-Col (Pop-up)</h3> <span class='gform_description'></span> </div> <div class='gform_body'><ul id='gform_fields_9' class='gform_fields top_label form_sublabel_below description_below'><li id='field_9_8' class='gfield gf_left_half gfield_contains_required field_sublabel_below field_description_below gfield_visibility_visible' ><label class='gfield_label' for='input_9_8' >First Name<span class='gfield_required'>*</span></label><div class='ginput_container ginput_container_text'><input name='input_8' id='input_9_8' type='text' value='' class='large' placeholder='First Name' aria-required="true" aria-invalid="false" /></div></li><li id='field_9_9' class='gfield gf_right_half gfield_contains_required field_sublabel_below field_description_below gfield_visibility_visible' ><label class='gfield_label' for='input_9_9' >Last Name<span class='gfield_required'>*</span></label><div class='ginput_container ginput_container_text'><input name='input_9' id='input_9_9' type='text' value='' class='medium' placeholder='Last Name' aria-required="true" aria-invalid="false" /></div></li><li id='field_9_4' class='gfield gf_left_half gfield_contains_required field_sublabel_below field_description_below gfield_visibility_visible' ><label class='gfield_label' for='input_9_4' >Email<span class='gfield_required'>*</span></label><div class='ginput_container ginput_container_email'> <input name='input_4' id='input_9_4' type='text' value='' class='medium' placeholder='Email' aria-required="true" aria-invalid="false" /> </div></li><li id='field_9_5' class='gfield gf_right_half gfield_contains_required field_sublabel_below field_description_below gfield_visibility_visible' ><label class='gfield_label' for='input_9_5' >Company name<span class='gfield_required'>*</span></label><div class='ginput_container ginput_container_text'><input name='input_5' id='input_9_5' type='text' value='' class='medium' placeholder='Company name' aria-required="true" aria-invalid="false" /></div></li><li id='field_9_10' class='gfield gf_left_half gfield_contains_required field_sublabel_below field_description_below gfield_visibility_visible' ><label class='gfield_label' for='input_9_10' >Company Size<span class='gfield_required'>*</span></label><div class='ginput_container ginput_container_select'><select name='input_10' id='input_9_10' class='large gfield_select' aria-required="true" aria-invalid="false"><option value='' selected='selected' class='gf_placeholder'>Company Size</option><option value='1-100' >1-100</option><option value='100-500' >100-500</option><option value='500-3000' >500-3000</option><option value='3000-1000' >3000-1000</option><option value='10000+' >10000+</option></select></div></li><li id='field_9_7' class='gfield gf_right_half gfield_contains_required field_sublabel_below field_description_below gfield_visibility_visible' ><label class='gfield_label' for='input_9_7' >What Describes You?<span class='gfield_required'>*</span></label><div class='ginput_container ginput_container_select'><select name='input_7' id='input_9_7' class='large gfield_select' aria-required="true" aria-invalid="false"><option value='' selected='selected' class='gf_placeholder'>What Describes You?</option><option value='Employer' >Employer</option><option value='Benefit Consultant' >Benefit Consultant</option><option value='TPA' >TPA</option><option value='PEO' >PEO</option><option value='Other' >Other</option></select></div></li> </ul></div> <div class='gform_footer top_label'> <input type='submit' id='gform_submit_button_9' class='gform_button button' value='Get Your eBook' onclick='if(window["gf_submitting_9"]){return false;} window["gf_submitting_9"]=true; ' onkeypress='if( event.keyCode == 13 ){ if(window["gf_submitting_9"]){return false;} window["gf_submitting_9"]=true; jQuery("#gform_9").trigger("submit",[true]); }' /> <input type='hidden' class='gform_hidden' name='is_submit_9' value='1' /> <input type='hidden' class='gform_hidden' name='gform_submit' value='9' /> <input type='hidden' class='gform_hidden' name='gform_unique_id' value='' /> <input type='hidden' class='gform_hidden' name='state_9' value='WyJbXSIsImFkODg5MTk3ZmY1MDIyZGVjZjEyNWI2ODk1Y2YyMGZiIl0=' /> <input type='hidden' class='gform_hidden' name='gform_target_page_number_9' id='gform_target_page_number_9' value='0' /> <input type='hidden' class='gform_hidden' name='gform_source_page_number_9' id='gform_source_page_number_9' value='1' /> <input type='hidden' name='gform_field_values' value='' /> </div> </form> </div><script type='text/javascript'> jQuery(document).bind('gform_post_render', function(event, formId, currentPage){if(formId == 9) {if(typeof Placeholders != 'undefined'){ Placeholders.enable(); }} } );jQuery(document).bind('gform_post_conditional_logic', function(event, formId, fields, isInit){} );</script><script type='text/javascript'> jQuery(document).ready(function(){jQuery(document).trigger('gform_post_render', [9, 1]) } ); </script>