Not Your Mama's Open Enrollment: 5 Things To Do Differently

Not Your Mama’s Open Enrollment: 5 Things To Do Differently


Tori Armendariz

October 16, 2020

For something that can so drastically affect the lives of employees, there has been very little change when it comes to how companies approach open enrollment education and preparation. And the way it has always been done is inadequate at best.

When I was working at a medical office, I spent 3 years as a liaison between insurance companies and patients. And upwards of 85% of patients didn’t know anything about their insurance plans – except that they had one.

So a lot of my conversations focused on educating them. I would break down common insurance terms, as well as the implications and total costs to be considered. And most of the time, I would hear that they wished they’d known this before signing up for their plan. And when I saw the havoc unexpected medical debt could wreak, I wished they’d known, too.

Fast forward to June 2020, and I was starting to prepare for Trainual’s open enrollment period – which we just wrapped up on October 1. And it was a smashing success – if I do say so myself. And I wanted to share the 5 things we did differently, so you can rock your open enrollment too: 

🔥 Tip: Dive deep into all the best ways to roll out your benefits with “Not Your Mama’s Open Enrollment” webinar!

1. Send a survey asking for feedback

Sasha: I’m not an insurance wiz. I probably have a deeper understanding than most. But there was still a lot I didn't know.

When it comes to open enrollment, you want to know how your current program affects your team before you change anything. And the best way to do that is to outright ask. 

Before anything else, we sent everyone on our team an anonymous survey about our current program, including what benefits our team would like to see moving forward. And it helped me gauge what my team loved, hated, didn’t know, and didn’t know that they didn’t know.

When creating your survey, make sure your questions are super clear and go more in-depth than just yes or no. For example, using CultureAmp, we asked questions like:

  • How would you rate your knowledge of health insurance on a scale of 1-10? (1 being a total novice, 10 being a health insurance savant)
  • Are you satisfied with your current health insurance options? (put this as another 1-10 scale)
  • What would you like to see change with your current health insurance options?

2. Make decisions based on feedback

You can only give people the benefits and open enrollment experience they need by taking the time to learn from them what that is. This is not the time for guessing games!

But people aren’t going to give you feedback if they feel like you don’t care what they say. It’s just a fact.

So when you send your open enrollment survey, you need to be transparent about how their answers drive change. This might be part of your next all-hands agenda, a follow-up email, or a candid chat in your company-wide slack channel.

For example, at Trainual, after any survey, we debrief with our team at the following all-hands meeting.  We share screenshots of the feedback we got and explain what changes we’re implementing because of it.

Plus,  we recap with an email specifically about the feedback we received and what we plan to do with it, as well as sharing the deck from the all-hands meeting for people to be able to reference specifically what we talked about!

3. Educate everyone on your benefits

Ariana: All the information was laid out and easy to understand. Normally, I’d be taking up someone’s time asking questions.

Tell your team exactly when open enrollment is happening. Repeatedly for at least a month until it starts so they can start having the necessary conversations with their spouses and know without a doubt when to enroll.

And while you’re doing this, make sure you’re training your team on their benefits options! That way, they’re not just blindly making decisions. Instead, you want your people to really understand what each plan means so they can confidently choose the right coverage for their families.

We, of course, used Trainual to build out a super comprehensive training on benefits so our team could reference back to it.

And we explained all the most common terms and walked through our available plan options. Plus, we answered frequently asked questions about benefits, coverage, and open enrollment itself.

We even made it an available template for our customers – with space for them to add their own benefits plans. No need to reinvent the wheel.

👉 Start your free trial to get our Health Benefits 101 template. Already use Trainual? Sign in to add the template to your account.

4. Hold open enrollment office hours

Shawn: Hands down, this was the easiest, least aggravating, and least painful open enrollment process I've ever done.

Even with comprehensive training, people are still going to have questions – especially for something as high-stakes as selecting benefits.

So for the week leading up to your open enrollment until it closes, make sure you have someone available. This should be someone on your HR team who has the bandwidth and knowledge to help people select the right benefits for their families.

As Trainual’s resident benefits nerd, I made sure to invite every single team member to book time with me. And let them know that their partners were more than welcome to join the Zoom call. After all, this was for them too!

In 20 minutes or so, we reviewed the available plans and discussed their unique needs. Then, I would help them understand which ones might be right for them.

And for team members who didn’t have time for a call, I answered questions via Slack or email. I was 100% available to them to assist in any way possible.

5. Follow up with your stragglers

I sent a team-wide reminder a few days before open enrollment closed.

Your team is busy! And sometimes, they miss updates, space dates, or lose track of time. So it’s up to you to make sure open enrollment is impossible to ignore (or forget).

For the last 3 days of your company’s open enrollment, reach out to everyone! And remind them that even if they’re electing or waiving coverage, they still need to submit a response.

At Trainual, we sent company-wide reminders on Slack. As well as asked managers to gently nudge individual team members during their weekly 1:1s.

I also sent individuals reminders leading up to open enrollment closing.

For the team members who left it to the very last minute, I sent individual reminders on Slack with an offer to help them choose! That way, even the stragglers didn’t miss open enrollment.

Here’s the bottom line: Open enrollment for health insurance is a time that most people overlook. But that could drastically affect your team long term. By arming everyone with information on their benefits, talking to everyone 1:1, and tailoring the experience, you can provide the best open enrollment experience they have ever had!

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