The start of fall is upon us; for most people, it means the return of football, pumpkin spice, and sweaters. But as we all know, HR/benefits pros aren’t most people! For us, the change in weather signals the biggest work season of them all: Annual Enrollment.
Just saying the two words is equal parts terrifying and exciting! But if you’re feeling more of the former and less of the latter, I offer you the been-there-done-that advice of three industry experts – who have experienced more than 50 Annual Enrollments combined! – for how to strengthen your AE preparation and make enrollment season more successful.
‘Take a deep breath’
Staying calm during Annual Enrollment is easier said than done, but Rhonda Marcucci, Vice President of the HR and Benefits Technology Consulting Practice at Gruppo Marcucci – a division of Gallagher Benefit Services, Inc., says it helps not to sweat the small stuff.
Marcucci likes to remind clients that the biggest priority during AE is delivering coverage at the right rates. If a few confirmation statements go out with the wrong salutation or the background color of the enrollment page is wrong, don’t panic. Those things can be easily fixed later.
“When clients get stressed, I always say, ‘Take a deep breath; it will be okay,’” Marcucci says. “You have to ask yourself, ‘How important is this really?’ I firmly believe if the issue doesn’t relate to cost or coverage, don’t worry about it.”
Keep your partners in the loop
When it comes to AE, you and your team are in the driver’s seat; so, take the lead on keeping all internal partners engaged in the process. Loop in senior leaders now so there is plenty of time to pivot your strategy and make changes based on their feedback.
Robin Sgutt, Senior Global Benefit Plans Manager at Lenovo, likes to schedule monthly meetings with her leadership team. “It can be hard to get extended time with executives. I’ve found it works best to plan brief monthly meetings, and focus on a different aspect of the benefits package each month.”
In addition to executives, identify who else internally needs to be involved in the planning process, and schedule time for regular updates so there are no surprises. For example, Sgutt keeps her payroll team engaged throughout the planning process so they’re prepared when annual enrollment comes. “If you start early, communicate regularly and keep everyone involved throughout the process, you’ll be set-up for success,” she says.
Focus on employees
A critical component of any Annual Enrollment strategy is employee communication. But with so many parts and pieces to discuss, creating effective communications that employees will actually read and find valuable can be difficult. In fact, 80 percent of plan sponsors admit employees don’t read communications materials.
Lindsay Kohler, a Senior Communications Consultant at Benz Communications, encourages her clients to focus on employees. To create a consistent voice and story, all communication materials should spotlight how offerings impact employees. For example, instead of touting the product features of an offering, tell employees how it can provide them with greater convenience or more financial support.
“Your employees are the reason you do what you do every day,” Kohler notes. “Keeping their best interest in mind tends to be a good compass when designing your enrollment communications.”
For more strategies to ensure a successful annual enrollment – and more great tips from Rhonda, Robin and Lindsay – download our latest webinar.