Conducting a Successful Open Enrollment during the COVID-19 Global Pandemic

by | Aug 25, 2020

Article written by Jennifer Pinter, Manager of Project Management

Employers and employees across the globe are experiencing significant changes due to the COVID- 19 pandemic. Many of the changes present challenges that will directly affect the upcoming Open Enrollment season. At a time when employee health and welfare needs are increasing, and entire workforces are shifting to remote work, employers will need to meticulously consider the upcoming Open Enrollment season. This is a critical time to evaluate benefit offerings and establish proactive communications that illustrate the value to employees. 

While the full impact of the pandemic is still being realized, employers do not have the luxury of waiting to make important decisions and will need to be proactive in planning their Open Enrollment strategy. What we know is that millions of people have experienced a consequential health or financial setback in 2020. As a result, this will have a substantial influence on Health and Welfare strategies as well as employee elections. It is expected that with the vast layoffs and business closures, some companies will also be faced with taking moderate to significant cost-saving measures to accommodate for lost business revenue.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the unemployment rate fell to 10.2 percent in July. That’s down from a peak of 14.7 percent in April, but still far above the 3.5 percent rate in February before the pandemic led to mass economic shutdowns. Expectedly, people are under a significant amount of stress due to these financial and health hardships. The findings of a nationwide survey assessing the effects of COVID-19 and related changes in everyday life show that it has had a profound negative impact on both the lives and emotional wellbeing of the majority of adults. Half of the entire population sample reported experiencing at least eight specific types of pandemic-related emotional impact to a moderate or greater extent over the past month, and nearly everybody (over 90%) had experienced one of those types of emotional effects to that extent. The full report of findings is available online.

The COVID-19 pandemic has shined a bright light on the importance of Health and Welfare benefits. Employees will be looking for benefits that better protect them and their families during this time of uncertainty, and they will be paying closer attention to plan offerings. Organizations should make the most of this increased interest in benefits, using the opportunity to educate employees on the value of the benefits being offered, increase employee engagement, and to highlight programs that support employees mental and financial health during this stressful time. This is a time to ensure employees know we care about their Health and Welfare; without employees our organizations will not thrive. 

Actions to Consider: Electronic Enrollment Process, Educate and Communicate

As we all navigate a new reality, there are some important actions leaders should consider in order to protect employee’s health and welfare, streamline enrollment and communicate effectively.As we all navigate a new reality, there are some important actions leaders should consider in order to protect employee’s health and welfare, streamline enrollment and communicate effectively.

  • What benefits changes will your organization be making this plan year? Will you need to reduce plan expenditure? A well-developed communication strategy will be
  • Are there any ancillary benefits that you don’t currently offer that are needed in the time of a pandemic? Employees will be looking for robust benefits that include supplemental life insurance and EAP
  • With students moving back in with parents, and partners possibly out of work, has your organization considered that dependent enrollment numbers will likely increase? With increased dependents your organization can expect a large number of enrollment changes, increases in cost and likely more questions about the
  • Does your Open Enrollment process allow for automated benefit selections and transactions? If not, what is your strategy for sending out and collecting paper enrollments? Virtual enrollment methods that feed directly into payroll are the most efficient way to process benefit elections. A virtual open enrollment must be tailored to fit the needs of your workforce and that takes planning, especially if this will be your first virtual
  • Has your HR/Benefits team been reduced? How will your team handle the work with reduced resources? Starting early and streamlining the process will be
  • Have you considered how your organization will educate employees on their Health and Welfare options? Developing a strategy and utilizing a variety of communication methods, including varied digital tools, is pivotal in helping employees consider how the pandemic may affect their benefit
  • How is your organization planning to support employee Open Enrollment questions during this unique time? Answering questions from employees and their families during Open Enrollment can be an opportunity to improve satisfaction with the Health and Welfare Encourage questions and get leadership involved in reinforcing the importance of this enrollment season.
  • The employee workforce for many organizations has been impacted by COVID, if you had to reduce your staff due to furloughs or layoffs how will you onboard them when they return? Do you have a plan for employees on furlough that are still on benefits?

How Can PayTech Help?

PayTech Consultants have over 20 years’ experience in the HR, Payroll and HCM systems industry and are subject matter experts in these areas. We bring a collaborative, non-threatening, relationship-building approach to lead organizations through a successful and streamlined Open Enrollment.

Our Open Enrollment services consist of providing clients with both strategic and tactical support to facilitate a positive employee experience. We can be as hands-on as needed, performing tasks, creating and managing the overall project plan, communication, training and change management.

Our approach to an Open Enrollment project includes:

  • Understanding our client’s Benefits and Open Enrollment strategy, company culture, past challenges, and unique plan changes
  • Utilizing our knowledge of the HCM system functionality to create a streamlined Open Enrollment event and well-received employee experience
  • Taking into consideration the challenges of the pandemic, as well as multigenerational and remote workforces to aid in customization of workforce education/training
  • Developing innovative, open and transparent communications and job aides for our clients in order to foster employee engagement
  • Helping organizations communicate the value of their Health and Welfare benefits, fostering a culture of wellness via Open Enrollment

PayTech Open Enrollment services are meant to be flexible and scalable, where we can easily extend or shorten the length of an engagement depending on the client’s individual needs.

We Can Help!

We are here to ensure your organization is prepared to deal with what lies ahead, and we can help guide you through these changing times.

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