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Preparation and Follow Up Are Key to Reducing Open Enrollment Hassles

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Without fail, there are two words that routinely strike fear into the hearts of both employers and -- "open enrollment." In fact, to avoid -induced headaches, 90 percent of the 2,100 employees surveyed in the 2014 Aflac Open Enrollment Survey choose the same benefits year after year.


From planning to communicating to enrolling, open enrollment can be a headache for employers and employees alike -- but it doesn't have to be.

To take some of the pain out of open enrollment and ensure that employee participation (and satisfaction) is at an all-time high, try sticking to an open enrollment timeline designed to simplify the process. A timeline like this will keep your benefits program running smoothly, and sub out any employee fear for a little bit of fun.

Before open enrollment.

Preparation for an open enrollment period should start well before enrollment begins. Getting a head start on the process can ease a lot of stress for both employers and employees.

Start by taking a look at previous enrollment periods. What did people struggle with most? What can be done to remedy past issues? Evaluating past processes will help employers better prepare for the next enrollment period.

When it comes to planning for open enrollment, take employee preferences into account. Distributing a company-wide survey or discussing benefits offerings during a town hall meeting can help employers determine what employees want to see most in their compensation package. Not only does this enable employers to customize benefits for their employees, it also assures employees that their needs are being heard by decision-makers.

The key to making open enrollment quick and easy is to actively communicate. Yet, only 20 percent of employees surveyed in Aflac's 2014 WorkForces Report said they had enough information to be prepared to select benefits. To be sure employees understand their benefit options and are prepared to select benefits, build a strong strategy with these tips:

  • Remind employees frequently of the coming enrollment period with calendar notifications, email, or newsletter announcements, office posters, etc.

  • Hold informational meetings in the form of lunch-and-learns, webinars, benefits fairs and similarly appealing events to discuss plan changes, deadlines, etc.

  • Provide the necessary resources, such as benefits calculators or third-party experts (e.g. licensed broker, healthcare provider, etc.), to help employees make more informed decisions.

Related: Weighing a Rollout of Benefits for Employees? 4 Tips for Startups to Consider

During open enrollment.

Open enrollment has begun and, ideally, employers and employees are prepped and ready to go.

To simplify the process further, consider going from a paper-based enrollment method to an automated one. Benefits enrollment software eliminates the hassle associated with paperwork. An automated enrollment system makes it easy to verify that employees have successfully enrolled and to send that enrollment data to carriers.

Additionally, designate individuals or third-party experts to assist employees and help put out any fires during the open enrollment period. Doing so can take a lot of weight off of HR's shoulders and make employees feel at ease, should a problem arise.

To encourage employees to participate, consider beginning benefits enrollment a week early for those who want to get a head start.

Incentivizing the process can also help move things along while reducing the stress associated with open enrollment. Offer prizes or rewards for attending information sessions or enrolling by a certain date. Host benefits fairs after work so families can get involved (it is a family matter, after all). Who said open enrollment can't be fun?

Related: Small Businesses Can Offer Big Benefits to Attract the Best Talent

After open enrollment.

Open enrollment is not an open-and-shut case. The bulk of it might be over, but managing benefits is an ongoing process.

Encourage employees to stay on top of their benefits by making it easy for them to manage them in between enrollment periods. That means ditching the stacks of paperwork and implementing tech solutions.

Modern enrollment enables employers and employees to easily manage benefits online -- anytime, anywhere. By creating a user-friendly interface where employees can select and manage benefits, there's really no excuse to not keep up with benefits year-round.

And so begins the open enrollment cycle. It's never too early to start preparing for the next open enrollment period. Use this year's open enrollment experience to identify ways to make the next one even better for everyone involved.

Related: Why Ownership Is Now a Favorite Employee Benefit

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