5 tips for creating a frictionless open enrollment season

By Elaine Stanfield, Sr. Product Marketing Manager, Docusign

Companies are gearing up to kick off open enrollment for their employees to choose their workplace benefits, including health, vision, dental, life insurance. 

In the U.S., open enrollment season is a period of time when employees may elect or change the benefit options available through their employer, such as health, dental and life insurance, and ancillary or voluntary benefits. Some benefits are fully paid by the employer, some are employee-paid through salary deferral, and for some the cost is shared. 

Historically, the open enrollment process has been cumbersome and inefficient for employees. But it’s no walk in the park for HR professionals either, who are tasked with everything from the initial communication to employees, to managing questions, concerns and the completion of documents. Not to mention that HR professionals often act as the company translator between employees and the language and concepts of benefits offerings. 

So how can HR professionals best communicate with employees about their choices while staying organized on their end? What's the best way to help employees and yourself (HR professionals) through open enrollment season?

Take a look at our tips below for ways to start the conversation early with employees, while streamlining your own efficiencies in the back end.

  1. Assume employees know close to nothing (about open enrollment). As an employee who does not work in HR, the open enrollment terminology can feel unfamiliar and serious. After all, we are talking about health and life insurance. One way to get around this when you’re kicking off open enrollment communication at your company is to start by breaking down the somewhat daunting benefits-related terminology. Define terms like “open enrollment” (seriously), “deductible”, “network”, “coinsurance”, “monthly premium”, “network” and more. This will allow every employee to feel more comfortable when it comes time to actually make decisions on their plans.
  2. Clearly articulate actions & deadlines. Today’s employees are busier than ever before and they’re also inundated with a constant flow of information (noise) through work channels, social channels and personal life. Open enrollment is likely to fall to the bottom of the priority list for most employees. That being said, it’s more critical than ever before for HR organizations to clearly articulate actions and deadlines related to open enrollment in a concise way. Try using a communication channel that’s widely adopted across the company (monthly newsletter, email, slack, Salesforce, etc.). Use bullet points for outlining steps with multiple actions; use bold font and/or highlight deadlines and dates. And lastly, be consistent. One email is not enough to keep all employees on track.
  3. Is it one size fits all? Like most things, probably not. In drafting open enrollment communications, consider whether you're reaching people with information that's relative to them, taking into consideration where they are in their lives and what their particular needs are. If benefits offerings differ country by country or region by region, customize communications for each audience to avoid confusion. Communications should be as specific and direct to each individual as possible. 
  4. Track employee progress. Adopting a system for tracking employee progress and document completion rates will save you time in the long run and increase efficiencies. Turns out, having an HR tracking system in place will help with things other than just open enrollment too. Think: maintaining employee compliance, updating terms & agreements, policy changes, and much more. You’ll be able to keep a pulse on the overall health of your business and see which of your employees have outstanding tasks (looking at you, Karen).

Free tip: Docusign enables applicants to fill out and sign all necessary forms online, on any device—reducing the time to complete them to minutes or hours rather than days or weeks. Our forms library lets your staff easily select the appropriate forms, and robust workflow capabilities let you specify signer order. Automated reminders help speed the process up. Docusign also provides complete reporting, audit trail, and document retention capabilities. 

  1. Get creative this open enrollment season. Lastly, for most employees, open enrollment can be viewed as just another to-do on the old to-do list. Make it fun by hosting virtual and in-person lunch and learns or office hours. Set aside time for employees to ask you questions and get advice on their benefits plans. And if your company is fully remote, play around with fun themes in your open enrollment communications. How can you grab their attention? What’s going to be most relevant and helpful to them this week? 

For more inspiration and help along the way, check out Docusign’s solutions for Open Enrollment here.

Happy Open Enrollment Season!