Prepping for 2020 Open Enrollment: What's New This Year?

2020 open enrollmentOpen enrollment is just a couple of months away. HR leaders predict that the process will present some added challenges this year for two reasons:

1. COVID-19

2. Trends in benefits coverage and usage.

According to a September report from Thomsons Online Benefits, employers are spending more on benefits this year than they did last year. Nearly three-quarters (73%) of employers say they plan to spend at least 16% of overall employee wage bill on benefits, as compared with 56% last year.

In other words, based on average U.S. salary, most companies are spending somewhere in the neighborhood of $12,000 per employee on benefits. That’s a significant investment, and it makes sense that employers would want to make sure their workers are taking full advantage of what is available to them.

But that’s not always the case. Sometimes employees are simply unaware of the benefits available to them, and sometimes employers have not adequately communicated about new offerings.

Adding an additional twist this year is the fact that many employees are looking more closely at benefits in light of COVID-19.

In light of these considerations, let’s take a look at 5 things to keep in mind as you prepare for your 2020 open enrollment period.

1. Put Flexibility at the Center of Benefits Administration

Employees are thinking more about benefits these days. COVID-19 has raised questions about what kinds of benefits are available, what coverage includes, and how to make the most of what is offered. On top of that, many workers are still telecommuting, which means standard benefits fairs or seminars won’t work this year. 

One way to solve this problem is to invest in a digital delivery system so that employees can go online to learn about their options and enroll. While many companies have already begin moving in this direction, integration with other platforms is often the missing piece of the puzzle. The good news is the HR technology vendors are upgrading their wellness and benefits apps so they can integrate into platforms like Teams or WebEx. This makes it easier for employees to interact and ask questions as they consider their options.

In addition, technology should be flexible enough to allow for remote access on a variety of devices. As many employees continue to work from home for the foreseeable future, they will need the option to engage with benefits content from their home context. 

2. Communicate Effectively About New Benefits 

As overall benefits spending has increased, many companies have added additional options such as caregiver benefits, telehealth, healthcare savings, and mental health services. But that doesn’t necessarily mean employees are using all of the benefits that are available to them. For example, Bank of America’s 2019 Workplace Benefits Report found that while 88% of companies offer caregiving benefits, only 34% of caregiver employees had taken advantage of those benefits. Even more concerning is the fact that nearly three-quarters of employees at those companies were not aware the benefits existed.  

To help employees gain the most from the benefits available to them, companies will need to rethink their communication plan. That’s especially true since standard events such as benefits fairs and seminars may not be possible this year. To fill the information gap, consider conducting these events virtually, creating e-learning or FAQ tools for employees, and sending more frequent emails with links to resources.   

3. Harness Analytics to Monitor Usage

If you aren’t monitoring things like benefit cost as compared with usage, then you’ll never know how much of a knowledge gap there really is at your company. Even more importantly, you won’t know if employees are struggling, so you won’t be able to help them. So, what metrics should you be watching? Start with things like:

  • Benefit costs
  • Software platform adoption
  • Employee wellbeing
  • Benefit take-up rates
  • Benchmarking against similar organizations

This data probably already exists with your HR platform. If it doesn't, it may be time to consider an upgrade. 

4. Provide Adequate Training on New Tools

If you have implemented new software to support benefits administration, be sure employees know how to use it. Use E-learning or microlearning tools to provide in-the-moment assistance as employees prepare for open enrollment. In addition, if you are offering a new service such as telehealth, make sure employees understand how to use the tool, how to access it from their personal device (if applicable), and how to get help if they need it. 

5. Support Employees as They Make Benefits Selections

Perhaps the most important thing you can do, especially this year, is to make sure employees take the time to consider their options. We all need to think a little differently about benefits as we face additional financial pressures, health concerns, caregiver responsibilities, and job changes. Along with technology resources like chatbots and FAQs, employees should also feel comfortable contacting managers or HR representatives with questions as they make their selections. 

Flexibility is the name of the benefits game this year. 2020 has thrown curveballs in just about every direction, and companies will need a plan to stay on top of the data, create a strategy that addresses current needs, and go the extra mile to help employees stay engaged.

If you don’t have a full-fledged HR department, don’t worry. All that responsibility doesn’t have to fall on the shoulders of one person. Working with a PEO removes that burden so that you can stay laser-focused on guiding your business through the pandemic. A PEO can help you:

  • Educate employees so they get the most from their benefits
  • Monitor key analytics and data
  • Answer employee questions about benefit offerings
  • Support employee needs with an HR technology platform and self-service portal
  • Update or create handbooks to present benefits information. 

If you’re a small business owner who feels buried by the responsibilities of HR, it’s time to consider a PEO. Even in the uncertain business environment of 2020, PEOs have stepped up to the plate with an array of support services to help small businesses. 

Looking for the right PEO for your business? We can help! Take our brief survey to find your perfect PEO match!


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