5 Steps for a Successful Open Enrollment Period

During the months of October and November, employers annually conduct open enrollment sessions for employees and family members. These informational sessions, communicate upcoming benefit changes, new costs and any other relevant information that will impact the employee or employees family. The open enrollment sessions also provide an opportunity for the employee and/or significant other to ask questions regarding benefits and costs. SHRM published, “6 Simple Ways to Improve Open Enrollment,” in August 2017. Additional information or resource material, will be helpful to us as leaders and to our employees who need the information to make the best decision for themselves and their families, related to benefits.
Below are 5 steps for a successful open enrollment period:

1. Prepare, Prepare, Prepare: Generate and disseminate information prior to open enrollment meetings. This will provide employees with the opportunity to review the information prior to the open enrollment sessions. Ensure that the information is communicated through the proper organizational channels and it is easy to understand. Do not make benefit information over complex or complicated. Develop a frequently asked questions sheet that will provide assistance to employees when thinking about questions and possible solutions. We cannot cover every questions, this format will help generate thought and answers.

2. Focus on the Employees: This step encompasses step #1, in that we need to prepare information for the workforce that is relevant and timely. Knowing your employees will add value to focusing on specific tools and resources for the open enrollment process.

3. Identify Needs: “Review the results of previous years’ open enrollment efforts to make sure the process and the perks remain relevant and useful to workers.” Do you send out a survey asking for feedback from last year’s open enrollment? What are the demographics of the workforce? Do you have metrics associated with benefit usage?

4. All Available Resources: Are we utilizing all the available resources inside and outside of the organization? Is the marketing department to develop material and communications? Are we partnering with brokers, insurance carrier and vendors to provide sufficient resources during the open enrollment process? Are we communicating all information? Remember NYS Paid Family Leave. Be creative. If you were in the employee’s shoes, what resources would add value and engagement throughout the enrollment process? Don’t assume that the carrier will say no, if you never ask, you will not know the answer.

5. Spouses Involvement: Many organizations provide the opportunity for spouses and domestic partners to be involved in the open enrollment process. Meeting times might need to be changed from day to night or weekend sessions. Other options could be webinars or one-on-one meetings. Involving the spouse will generate more questions and continued engagement.

Open enrollment can be a complex and confusing process for any employee. As leadership, we need to be aware of the needs of our workforce and find proactive solutions to manage and communicate these complexities. “Benefits enrollment strategies are always evolving. What worked last year may not be relevant this year. But you can’t go wrong putting employee’s needs first.” If it was you, what questions would you have during open enrollment?

– Matthew Burr, HR Consultant


Burr Consulting, LLC

Blog: What’s New in HR

iTunes: The Upstate HR Podcast

Facebook: Burr Consulting, LLC

LinkedIn: Burr Consulting, LLC

Twitter: @Burrconsulting

Burr Consulting, LLC, P.O. Box 197, Spencer, New York, 14883 (607)227-4386, https://burrconsultingllc.com/ Matthew@Burrconsultingllc.com

“Short Name, Proven Results”

Open Enrollment Success Tips

As most organizations are now approaching the open enrollment season, we need to be cognizant of confusing and frustrating open enrollment processes.  A poll “was conducted in April among 2,105 employees currently receiving health care through their employer. Among those whose company offers health insurance:  Half of employees (49 percent) say making health insurance decisions is always “very stressful” for them.  41 percent feel the open enrollment process at their company is “extremely confusing.  20 percent often regret the benefits choices they make.”[1]

As leaders we need to educate our employees on making the right choice for themselves and their family.  Healthcare enrollment can be a confusing process for any employee, education and communication are crucial to ensure a successful open enrollment season.  None of our organizations want to be a statistic as mentioned above.

Below are 7 open enrollment tips to assist your organization in a successful open enrollment season:


  1. Develop a roadmap from start to finish for the open enrollment outcomes. This should include what you want covered by the plans and how you want to get there.  Do you want 100% participation in open enrollment?  Are you analyzing the data every day?
  2. Keep it simple. Do not assume that every person that works for you has a thorough understanding of how open enrollment works or what to choose during the open enrollment process.  Use examples that everyone can understand. Benefit enrollment is complex enough; do not make it more complex.
  3. Develop a training for the open enrollment process. Everyone learns differently, so try to develop a training system that encompasses all aspects of different learning styles.  Presenting/lecturing on benefits for 2-hours would be a challenge for me (or anyone else!) to sit through.
  4. Design checklists and handouts. Develop checklists or cheat sheets for employees to use during the process.  Handout the packet of information during the training.  Material should be basic and easily readable for a variety of literacy levels.
  5. Offer family sessions. Offer enrollment sessions that include a spouse or significant other. This can relieve some anxiety and allow for better decision making by employees for their family’s needs.
  6. Determine Frequently Asked Questions. Design a frequently asked questions handout or implement into the training.   I have found this to work well in the past.
  7. Open enrollment office hours and follow-up meetings. Establish 30-minutes to 1-hour every other day or daily dedicated to open enrollment and open enrollment questions.  If employees need to enroll online, assist them with this process during these time slots.  Follow-up throughout the process to ensure you reach the pre-established goal for the organization.


Open enrollment timing and processes vary by organization.  At times, this process can be confusing and frustrating to your employees.  Proactive planning and simplification wherever possible will help to ensure a successful open enrollment season.  If you have a third party or consultant scheduled to work through the open enrollment process, walk through the training with them.  Human Resources needs to understand what information is being communicated and how it will be communicated.  Ask employees before the process begins if they have any questions or concerns.  As the cost of healthcare and other benefits continues to rise, as does the complexities of the laws and regulations.  Seek guidance or help if you are unclear on the right approach.



– Matthew Burr, HR Consultant

[1] https://www.shrm.org/resourcesandtools/hr-topics/benefits/pages/open-enroll-benefits-confusion.aspx