Picwell Blog

How To Prepare for This Year's Virtual Open Enrollment: 4 Smart Steps to Success

Jun 10, 2020 10:00:00 AM / by Picwell

While evaluating and choosing healthcare and supplemental benefits may not be confusing or difficult to those of us who work in the field, it’s important to remember that the average employee doesn’t fully understand what they’re looking at when it comes to benefits. In fact, in a survey conducted by UnitedHealth, they found that only 9% (yes, you read that right) of individuals understand all four of these basic healthcare terms: 

  • Co-insurance
  • Out-of-pocket maximum
  • Health plan deductible
  • Health plan premium

With this lack of knowledge around basic benefits terminology it’s clear why benefits professionals are so critical to running a successful enrollment experience; but these days, your employees can’t just “drop by” your office with questions or concerns about their benefits plans. 

With in-person meetings and benefits fairs canceled the world over, you need to take open enrollment virtual. To make this successful you will have to do a few things: 

  1. You need to communicate your organization’s benefits effectively
  2. You need to find an easy way to listen to your employees needs and wants
  3. You need to maintain your sanity

Sound impossible? Keep reading.

Tackling these issues will be integral to preparing for this year’s open enrollment, which for most companies, will take place virtually this Fall. As we all know, recent environmental factors have contributed to the necessity of digital tools in your organization, and your team has likely just begun their transition to full digital service.

Fortunately, there are clear steps you can take to make this year’s virtual enrollment a success. By following these steps outlined below, you can make this year’s enrollment your best yet. 

4 Smart Steps for Virtual Enrollment Success

Instead of viewing virtual enrollment as a challenge to overcome, view it as an opportunity to make your enrollment process easier, more efficient, and more cost-effective. 

Here are four steps you can take to ensure your organization is ready for this year’s virtual open enrollment.

#1. Start planning now

As Eisenhower famously coined, plans are worthless, but planning is everything. With any large task, the sooner you begin, the less stressed you will be and the better results you will see. There is no way for you to prepare for every problem that will arise during virtual open enrollment, but equipping yourself with the right tools and thinking through the possibilities beforehand will reduce your stress and make your team more efficient.

Get specific, and stick to it.  

The best way to do this is by planning your entire enrollment strategy in advance. Create a spreadsheet with specific deadlines, but also make sure there is some wiggle room for potentially unforeseen circumstances.

Develop well-designed communication pieces in various formats and lengths. This can include text communications (email and Slack messages), video, and/or webinar presentations. You can break the process down even further by setting deadlines for each of these communication pieces - and sticking to them.  Make sure you are always communicating the most important details first, then follow with less pertinent information. 

Last, if you’re in charge of a team, empower your employees to take ownership of the process too. Get feedback and incorporate it into your planning. If you have complete buy-in of your team, it will make the enrollment process that much more successful.

#2. Meet employees where they already are

We all interact with the internet in our own way, and the best strategies and tools speak to those variances. From the devices your employees use to the optimal times they are available, it’s your job to reach everyone effectively, regardless of device or lifestyle. 

Therefore, it is absolutely essential that you provide a virtual enrollment experience that works well across all devices, including computers, tablets, and laptops - and without human assistance. The tool you use to support your open enrollment must be intuitive, easy to navigate, and quick. Your employees don’t want to spend too much time running through a confusing process to evaluate and choose their benefits plan for the upcoming year.

The best way to be proactive is to select a decision support tool that delivers on all of the objectives listed above. Additionally, make sure you provide thorough documentation and step-by-step resources that prioritize user experience.

#3. Embrace new technology

In a virtual enrollment world, almost all of your planning’s impact will be around what technology stack you choose to use. If you pick wisely, your benefits decision support stack will improve efficiency within your department, taking the weight off of your team’s shoulders while still maximizing productivity. 

Find success by building a careful selection of trusted partners that work well together. From email service providers to decision support solutions like Picwell, you need trusted partners to deliver a great user experience. 

The best way to evaluate your tech partners is by searching for:

  • Innovative tools. Are they bringing real change to the enrollment experience? Is the tool easy to understand and is it efficient?
  • Reliability. Is their devotion to tech balanced by care and service? Can the tool be easily accessed and utilized at any time of day or night without assistance?
  • A clear track record of success. Can they provide case studies with proven statistics? Are their case studies thorough & legitimate?
  • Proof of potential ROI. Do their case studies and strategies demonstrate exactly how a positive ROI can be achieved? Do you feel confident that their tech will make a significant difference in reducing your workflow?

Don’t neglect demos, either. Take them and ask the hard questions. The right company will have thoughtful, helpful answers and will be able to tie them to specific successes directly related to your needs.

#4. Develop a clear communication strategy

We touched on this topic above but it’s worth a more in-depth look. A clear communication strategy will play a huge part in whether your virtual open enrollment is a success.

As a benefits professional, an integral part of your role is to understand your organization’s benefits better than anyone. Your employees are relying on you and your team to not only explain what benefits are available, but also outline any changes, and provide clear, comprehensive direction on how to enroll in the best plan for their needs; that clear, comprehensive direction can only arise from a smart communication strategy. 

When developing a communication strategy, ask yourself:

  • What channels for messaging will catch my employees' attention? Do they engage mostly in communication apps (like Slack or Microsoft Teams), through email, or in video conferences (like Google Meet or Zoom)?
  • How often will I send communications?
    Tip: Don’t overwhelm or bombard employees with too much detail up front but make sure you are communicating often enough to keep it on their minds.
  • How will I ensure employees are informed enough to make the right decisions? Am I providing effective benefits education and empowering my employees to be confident they are making the right choices?
  • What tools will do most of the heavy lifting when it comes to education and information retention? Have I researched and identified a tool for benefits decision support?
  • How will I analyze results? Will I be able to present my findings in a way that will prove success?

Once you’ve answered these questions, you will be able to build them into a specific set of tasks and deadlines that you can execute before, during, and after virtual enrollment. 

And of course, employee engagement will be crucial. There are various ways you can increase employee engagement throughout this virtual process. Our previous blog linked below provides some tried and true tips to achieve increased engagement.

Read more: The Secret to Better Employee Engagement + 6 Tips You Can Implement Today

The key advantages of going virtual for open enrollment

Even though virtual enrollment is a necessity right now, the benefits of virtual open enrollment are clear even outside of today’s work environment. 

Your company and your employees save cash

The better your virtual open enrollment execution, the more money you can save your employees and your organization. This is most evident in your choice around decision support. For example, on average, Picwell users save over $1,000 per year when they choose a recommended plan, and some companies have saved up to $94 per year per employee. These savings are realized simply by implementing and using Picwell’s decision support solution.

By referring your entire workforce to tools with predictive analytics that suggest the best plans based on their unique risk profiles, educating them on your existing benefits, and providing a clear next step to the enrollment platform, you can save your employees money on costly premiums while reducing your organization’s healthcare burden – all from the comfort of home offices. 

You and your benefits team won’t have to work as hard 

A smooth virtual open enrollment process will lower labor costs & workload. By developing centralized resources that you can point employees to, building thorough benefits communications, and utilizing decision support tools that educate employees before they participate in open enrollment, you will reduce the questions, problems, and concerns employees have. Your employees will be able to make informed decisions they can be confident in when choosing their benefits plans.

The key here is to use tools and communication strategies that focus on delivering information, and the best tools for that are the ones specifically designed to educate employees about the enrollment process.

The benefits you provide will go even further

Having fantastic benefits is ineffective if employees aren’t aware of them. Emails and announcements can help, but there’s no guarantee that an employee will listen to the information or even remember it when going through virtual open enrollment. 

Building a robust virtual open enrollment system can solve this. By using tools that suggest plans to your employees based on eligibility, and walking them through that thinking step by step, you can empower your employees to make the best decisions while demonstrating the depth of your benefits — resulting in lower costs and higher employee satisfaction. 

Your employees will walk out of virtual enrollment more educated and confident

Virtual enrollments have a compounding effect. Every year you execute a successful virtual enrollment and use gathered feedback to continue to improve your tech stack, the better your employees will get at walking through the process.

Benefits professionals no longer have to guess whether or not their efforts are working. By using benefits decision support tools that offer actionable insights across demographics, such as risk tolerance, capacity for shock bills, and software adoption rates, you can arm yourself with the knowledge you need to make open enrollment better year after year. 

The bottom line on preparing for this year’s virtual open enrollment

If you want to have a hugely successful virtual open enrollment — even when so much of the work environment is new and uncertain, you need to plan ahead, meet employees where they are, embrace new technology, and execute effective communication strategies. Luckily, there’s still plenty of time to implement a plan, and by using tools specifically designed to make open enrollment simple, you can save yourself a lot of headaches. 

With the right decision support solution, open enrollment can be as simple as: 

  • You and your team point employees to the tool via email, communication apps, and/or virtual meetings.
  • Employees review changes from their previous enrollment in the tool’s portal. 
  • After answering a few simple questions, the decision support tool guides them to the best benefits plan based on scientific data and the employee’s unique health profile, removing the burden of number crunching and personal risk analysis.
  • The employee is pointed to enroll directly from the tool to the relevant websites and/or benefits administration platforms based on the benefits package they chose. 

With the right tools, it really can be that easy. 

If you want to run a hugely successful virtual open enrollment, Picwell’s intuitive, AI-driven decision support solution will get you there. 

Schedule a demo today to see what Picwell can do for your organization’s virtual open enrollment this year.

Topics: Open Enrollment, Benefits Decision Support, Health Insurance, HR Tech


Written by Picwell