We’re getting to the time of year when businesses throughout the U.S. are preparing for open enrollment in 2024. This is, of course, when your staff members can sign up for health insurance and other benefits including retirement plans and disability insurance. Because benefit plans aren’t static, there is an enormous amount of pre-planning that human resource (HR) departments are faced with.
Before the open enrollment period opens, organizations have a chance to change their benefit options. During this time it is a good idea to consider open enrollment 2024 trends. For example, Human Resource Executive reports that more organizations are increasing their limited health plan options. This represents a distinct move away from high-deductible plans that have health savings accounts. According to a Mercer report, in 2018, 22% of employers with 20,000 or more employees offered only high-deductible healthcare plans. This figure plunged to 9% in 2022.
Organizations embracing this trend will need to inform employees about these changes. They will also need to communicate all available options as well as any adjustments to be made in terms of limits and thresholds. The process demands careful planning to ensure that employees don’t miss open enrollment announcement opportunities. This means that internal communications flowing from HR departments will need to be targeted and highly informative.
Cerkl recognizes how tough successful communications can be. So we’re going to focus on successful communication strategies for open enrollment 2024.
How Does Open Enrollment Work?
Typically, open enrollment will start on November 1, 2023 and end on January 15, 2024. This is particularly true for states that use the federal Affordable Care Act (ACA) exchange. But some states have their own date ranges. For instance, open enrollment 2024 will continue until January 31 in California, New Jersey, and Washington, and January 23 in Massachusetts.
There are also differences in terms of programs like Medicaid and Medicare, as well as ACA plans. United Healthcare points out that open enrollment for individual and family ACA Marketplace plans is from November 1 to January 15, 2024 in most states. But Medicare has an annual enrollment period from October 15 until December 7. You can enroll for Medicaid and Dual Eligible Special Needs Plans at any time.
When organizations offer specific benefits, including insurance, it’s essential that employees know what the options are before the open enrollment period. For this reason, those in HR will commonly communicate the various options in an open enrollment email to employees. They may also consider an open enrollment 2024 campaign and remote or on-site discussion meetings. Closer to the time, HR departments will often make an open enrollment announcement alerting employees to the start date.
Preparing for Open Enrollment 2024
Forbes Human Resources Council members recently suggested 19 key factors HR leaders should consider when preparing for open enrollment 2024. The general aim is to make the open enrollment process a worthwhile experience for all stakeholders including employees.
Many suggestions overlap, but almost all of them highlight the importance of internal communications.
Launch a Proactive Communications Strategy
There is no doubt that communications strategies play an important role in the open enrollment preparation process.
Neha Mirchandani, the chief marketing officer and head of people at BrightPlan, stresses the importance of a proactive communication strategy. Further, by collaborating with partners, organizations can maximize employee engagement and ROI.
She also emphasizes the need “to have a strong pulse on employees’ needs.”
Typically this will involve finding out whether employees are happy with the health insurance and other benefits offered. Clearly, it calls for increased internal communications in time for adjustments to be made if necessary. The process could start out with an initial open enrollment announcement and lead on from there.
Several other contributors make suggestions that can be incorporated in a proactive communications strategy.
Ingenovis Health’s chief HR officer, Denise Triba, suggests using employee engagement surveys, focus group chats, and one-on-one meetings to engage with employees. It’s a good way to find out what they believe is working and what should change.
Head of talent acquisition and development at Arootah, Kimika Banfield emphasizes the need to anticipate the needs of new employees. Communications solutions she suggests include FAQ sheets, enrollment step-by-step guides, and pictographs. She also recommends hosting benefit fire chats and establishing a benefit dashboard.
Raj Tanwar, chief strategy officer and head HR for Advantage Club Technologies in India, also highlights the importance of developing a strategic communication plan. This needs to provide clear, concise information about the enrollment process and the options it offers. He favors multiple communication channels ranging from posts, webinars, and in-person meetings, to the all-important open enrollment email to employees.
Cerkl Broadcast offers a host of options you can take advantage of to maximize a proactive communications strategy for open enrollment 2024.
Encourage an Open-Door Policy
Michael Held, CEO of LifeSpeak Inc., a Canadian company operating in the mental health field, advocates an open-door policy to HR. This enables employees to communicate one-to-one about topics they might not feel happy talking about in a group. He says issues may include fitness, substance use, caregiving support, and mental health. By encouraging this policy, HR leaders can both educate and advise employees, and help them make open enrollment decisions.
This approach will certainly help those who feel left out of the loop from those higher-up in the company. It also allows employees to ask questions they might be embarrassed to ask more publicly.
Increase Access and Automation
Jennifer Kraszewski, Paycom’s vice-president of HR, emphasizes the importance of increasing employee’s access to information. As she says, automating access to information will speed up the process.
We couldn’t agree more. Cerkl Broadcast internal communication campaigns are an excellent way to schedule communications throughout the open enrollment process. This helps increase both access and automation because you can schedule comms, send reminders, and save yourself a lot of time and stress.
Communications consultant and coach, Cat Colella-Graham, also emphasizes accessibility for employees. She encourages organizations to demystify open enrollment to help employees understand the benefits offered.
Update Health Plans and Communicate Changes
Updating health plans and other benefits before the open enrollment period is essential. This involves checking ACA compliance, affordability for staff, and ensuring that non-discrimination requirements are met.
Apart from considering important open enrollment trends, Erin ImHof, HR director at CertiK suggests evaluating current benefit packages and comparing them to changing industry needs and standards. She likes the idea of holding employee surveys to assess what employees value.
Robert Sheen, CEO of Trusaic, a purpose-driven technology company, stresses the need to communicate any changes with employees. It stands to reason that they need to fully understand their options.
Sherrie LeCheminant, vice president of HR at Blackstone Products, believes in the value of over communicating any changes. She also advocates discussing and analyzing current benefits with younger employees. Her favorite communication method is benefits fairs around open enrollment.
Another HR specialist who highlights the need to effectively communicate policy updates is Siddharth Sharma. Vice president of HT Digital Solutions at JP Morgan Chase & Co. he says it’s crucial that employees “fully understand their benefit options.” HR must also explain clearly if and how benefit options have changed, and stress enrollment deadlines. He suggests circulating clear guides, organizing sessions to share information, and offering personal support.
Another option is to send an open enrollment email to employees.
Consider and Communicate Benefit Increases and Affordability
Srikanth Karra, the chief human resources officer at Mphasis in India also highlights the need for proactive communication. But there is also a need to facilitate plan comparison to ensure affordability. He says it’s imperative to look at the evolving needs of employees and to prioritize effective communication and transparency. Chief human resources officers (CHROs) need to provide clear information and guidance to increase employee awareness.
The vice-president of people operations at Bluedot Innovation, Robin Page, stresses the challenge of assessing benefit increases. These can impact on the company and employees, so should be considered early in the planning program. She says proactive discussion is the solution when considering the impact of fee increases.
On the topic of affordability, Tracy Cote, chief people officer of StockX, suggests differentiating benefit fees to accommodate lower-paid employees.
How to Prepare an Open Enrollment Announcement
The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) also offers invaluable advice on strategies for a successful open enrollment. The largest professional HR organization in the world, SHRM also highlights the changing face of open enrollment. This is largely due to a partial return to the traditional office environment. One of the challenges is to cater for a hybrid workforce that is literally spread out, complicating open enrollment. Again, there is a focus on the importance of communication strategies to highlight the relevance of benefits for different employees.
Four strategies employers can use to inform their employees and maximize open enrollment announcement success
- Talk to employees and listen to their needs. Discuss how the different benefits work and answer their questions about enrollment.
- Embrace digital communication methods to accommodate remote and hybrid employees. Hold virtual meetings and benefits fairs, and share information via communication channels like Slack.
- Don’t lose sight of the value of traditional communication methods. Personal guidance and face-to-face meetings remain important. There is no doubt that group meetings are key.
- Highlight and discuss voluntary benefits. These include supplemental health benefits, hospital indemnity cover, and accident insurance.
- Discuss and explain the cost of healthcare and related benefits. Employees need to know what they are paying for and why benefit costs increase.
At the same time, it’s a good idea to recognize some of the common challenges organizations face, especially smaller ones. Alm Benefits Pro highlights four typical pains small businesses frequently encounter during open enrollment:
- Many employees are simply too busy working to spend time enrolling. It’s even more difficult for those who work remotely.
- Despite the best efforts of HR, some employees may not grasp what benefits offer. This is often due to confusing jargon used in benefit plans.
- Not all small businesses have HR departments or even a small HR team or dedicated professional. This makes it difficult to manage the process and can easily lead to failure.
- The business may not have a system in place to manage the benefits, let alone open enrollment 2024 and beyond. The result will be information stored in unrelated locations.
Four solutions offered by Cerkl for the four pains above:
- Without constant communication you’ll never be able to get ultra-busy employees to enroll. What you need is a Broadcast Campaign that is designed to remind employees every few days. You can also track engagement and identify those employees who haven’t bothered to open their comms. More targeted comms offering advice or assistance, will also be helpful.
- You may not be able to change the wording in the benefit plan itself. But you can ensure that the wording of messages shared during internal communication campaigns is simple and straightforward. You can also ramp up meetings online or in-person to ensure that your employees know what they will get when they enroll.
- The advanced capabilities on the Cerkl Broadcast platform offer various features. These will enable you to access the employee data HR departments would normally generate. They will also enable your organization to communicate and manage the open enrollment process with ease. You can personalize communication, communicate with deskless employees across multiple channels, and track your results in real time. Ultimately, our solutions are geared for success.
- Broadcast provides all the solutions you need to help systemize benefits and open enrollment communications through campaigns. All your information can be stored together and sent out in a logical, strategic manner, which allows IC/HR to be unified in their plan. There will be no more hunting for random data.
What Happens if Employees Miss Open Enrollment Opportunities?
It isn’t unusual to find that some employees have missed open enrollment at work. Some may be on vacation, others on sick leave, or they may simply have missed the deadline because they were too busy. In many cases there will be a grace-period for these people to make changes to their coverage. But even when they’ve missed open enrollment opportunities for 2024, they may not realize it. This is why it’s important for the HR department, or those in charge of open enrollment, to maintain communication even after the open enrollment periods have expired.
It’s good practice for employers to check with benefit providers to see when and if modifications are still possible. Then they can make another open enrollment announcement calling on those who missed it to come forward.
It’s also worth noting that there are qualifying life events that generally allow people to sign up for insurance and other benefits outside of open enrollment. These include relocating, getting married, having a child, and the inadvertent loss of other health insurance cover.
Successful Open Enrollment Announcement Relies on Continued Communication
Unless there is good internal communication about what open enrollment offers and entails there will be a risk that employees will be negatively affected. Cerkl Broadcast has developed many communication tools to help organizations avoid unfortunate circumstances like this.
These include two-way communication for email analytics as well as responsive email templates. The templates work seamlessly with our branded drag-and-drop Blasts and are compatible with more than 60 pre-tested devices. Our Audience Manager capability will provide you with the flexibility to reach exactly the employee audience you want.
Internal communicators, including HR professionals, will find that Cerkl Broadcast can revolutionize the open enrollment 2024 process. Firstly, it will cut down on the time spent planning changes needed for the enrollment process. Secondly, it makes it easier for employees to review and suggest changes to benefits plans using our email analytics and other communication tools.
You can download our free interactive worksheet to help you audit your internal communications strategy for open enrollment. Find out the strengths and weaknesses of your current strategy and adjust it for maximum reach and efficiency.
Want feedback? After you complete the template we will provide you with free, personalized advice on how to improve your internal communications strategy.
Open enrollment 2024 is basically the opportunity window employees and other individuals get to make changes to their benefit options. It happens annually, in the fall, and usually takes place between November 1 and January 15.
Open enrollment ensures that all employees have access to health coverage benefits. It also promotes choice and flexibility, and helps individuals make informed decisions about their healthcare. It plays a crucial role in protecting individuals’ health and financial well-being while also facilitating compliance with healthcare regulations.
When we talk about open enrollment at work this refers to the designated period when employees can change benefits offered via their employers – at work. It’s an annual opportunity for employees to customize their benefit packages to suit their needs.
Open enrollment announcements are often made to let employees know when the enrollment period begins and ends. But they can be made to share any information about enrollment issues. These include changes to previous benefit plans and campaign notifications.