6 steps to prepare for benefits open enrollment for 2021

July 30, 2020

With all that’s taken place this year, benefits open enrollment for 2021 is going to take on a different importance than in years past.

Open enrollment for benefits for many of you will take place in Q4; right about now, you’re probably having conversations with your vendors to revise/confirm offerings and get everything set up. Do you know what your employees want? COVID-19 has been a game-changer and people are thinking differently about their health and budget.

While you’ve might typically have had a significant percentage of employees who passively enrolled (meaning they let their choices from the prior year carry over), Mercer expects most employees to be much more engaged this year.

Uncertainty and changes in life circumstances due to the pandemic will likely result in them taking a much closer look during open enrollment for 2021.

Your workforce will have questions — and lots of them. They’ll be looking to see how you are responding to their needs as their employer; it’s imperative that you lead with empathy. Employees’ needs are different now. Many are probably willing to pay a higher premium for guaranteed care.

Let’s explore the six ways you can meet your employees’ needs — while still controlling costs.

1. First things first: you need to find out what’s most important to your workers in order to provide that for them.

Consider conducting employee surveys to understand their priorities now. You can make use of digital focus groups and virtual engagement surveys to great effect.

Although you won’t be able to accommodate all changes, assess what you can do to make benefits plan designs and offerings accommodating to the evolving needs of your employee population.

2. Partner with your vendors to increase telehealth offerings.

Patients are increasingly turning to digitally-enabled solutions to receive care for a myriad of health services.

For less intensive healthcare services such as maintenance prescriptions and minor illnesses or questions, telehealth can be a suitable option.

Help your employees stay well by allowing them to interface with medical professionals virtually when possible.

3. Consider how to enhance mental health benefits.

Social distancing, quarantine, and fear of illness are increasing levels of depression and anxiety.

Employees are simultaneously balancing work and family life 24/7 and have little opportunity to see friends without fear of spreading the virus. Simply put, we’re all coping with more and receiving less human support.

Enhancing your mental health benefits is a quick win for helping your workforce create and maintain balance and productivity in their lives and on the job.

4. Upgrade your communication strategy.

You may need to rethink how to connect with employees.

While many of us are still working remotely, it’s unlikely that you can get face-to-face time to address employee questions about their benefits options for 2021. But there are alternatives — perhaps a virtual benefits fair could work for your organization.

Need help determining the right communication plan for your organization? Mercer excels at developing custom benefits communication strategies that speak to what your employees need and reflect who you are as an organization.

5. Don’t underestimate how much time you need to set up your systems.

The best planned open enrollment processes can fall short of expectations if the employee experience in selecting options is cumbersome, challenging — or worse — incorrect.

However, with proper planning and testing, you can leverage your HRIS or other systems to enhance both the employee experience in open enrollment and the analytics that you are able to do on the back end.

Do you have Workday in place?

Be sure to take full advantage of cool features such as Workday’s Dependent Verification that allows you to easily validate eligibility for enrollment.

If you’re in need of help — by all means, reach out. Mercer has Applications Management Services teams that might be able to give you the boost you need.

Don’t have Workday yet? No problem. We can help with that, too.

6. Get virtual answers for common employee questions.

Plan in advance to support employees with additional options and access to employee service center representatives.

You will have an increased volume of employee questions this year.

In some cases, your enrollment tools may come with resources like a library of commonly asked questions that will allow employees to find answers and avoid long wait times.

This year, position open enrollment to set your company apart and increase your reputation as a place where people are heard and valued. Want more information? Give us a call at 1-855-286-5302.