TouchPoints: The Empyrean Blog

2020 Annual Enrollment Prep Guide: Achieve Benefits Success in the Age of COVID-19, Part 1

Annual Enrollment is the central moment that defines the success of your benefits strategy, and this year the stakes are higher than ever. Discover how your HR team can cut through the noise to deliver positive results for your employees and business.

More employees are working from home than ever before, parents are juggling conference calls while their kids attend virtual classes, and companies are navigating the pandemic as the situation evolves every day. Meanwhile, benefit teams are tasked with getting through all of the noise and distractions to keep their employees engaged, satisfied, and productive.

Empyrean’s latest At-A-Glance Guide will help you orient your AE planning, so you can execute an enrollment season that will reach and resonate with your workforce during these unique times. Download your free copy of the guide today!

The coronavirus crisis has underscored the importance of selecting the right coverage choices in protecting participants’ health, financial wellbeing, and overall peace of mind. In addition to the benefits package their employer offers, employees also need proper support to choose and utilize the right plans for their needs.

The way we work has been fundamentally and forever altered by the coronavirus pandemic. Moving forward, it is largely expected that many employees will continue to work remotely – even after the threat of the virus has passed. As you plan for this year’s virtual enrollment, consider improvements and new approaches to implement that will serve you in tomorrow’s remote-work environment – including your technology platforms.

Take time to consider the many ways COVID-19 has impacted your workforce, so you can adjust your enrollment strategy as necessary. Think of this year as an opportunity to optimize your open enrollment period and test new avenues to engage employees.

Here are a few steps to consider:

Plan and prep early
Everyone is working under new conditions – including you and your team. Give yourself extra time to prepare for this year’s AE and adjust to the challenges of fully virtual collaboration and communication. Create clearly defined roles and set a calendar of milestones for your team that includes post-AE follow up. Dedicate an extra week (or more, if possible) to ensure you have everything in order for a smooth enrollment season.

Keep employees focused
Like you, your workforce is adjusting to major shifts brought on by the pandemic. Employees across all populations are facing more distractions to enrollment than ever before. Consider reaching out to employees earlier – and more often – than in previous years. Begin reaching out to employees at least 60 days before your enrollment window opens. Regardless of whether you’re holding an active or passive enrollment, all employees should be encouraged to review their benefits to make sure they have the right coverage – especially as the situation around COVID-19 remains unpredictable. Early and continuous communication will help keep your enrollment metrics on track.

Review your AE goals
The emergence of the coronavirus has forced many businesses to rethink their priorities and goals this year. How has the pandemic impacted the structure of your company or workforce? How might you need to adjust your benefits strategy or enrollment expectations to accommodate these recent changes? Spend time thinking through recent changes and potential adjustments with your team to develop a clear understanding of where your strategy stands today.

RELATED: Explore how COVID-19 will shape the future of work in a post-pandemic world.

As you plan, remember to also review the following topics:

Eligibility rules and gatekeeping processes
How have your employee populations and eligibility rules changed since last year? To avoid data issues from ineligible elections, you’ll want to make sure your employees and dependent eligibility rules are precisely aligned with your organization’s needs and requirements. Take care especially when managing multiple complex populations with unique attributes (such as union employees, furloughed employees, grandfathered populations, and retirees).

Regulatory compliance requirements
Address any compliance concerns early on in your AE planning, to allow your team and vendors time to review and resolve any issues as needed. Also ensure your solution is properly aligned with the latest updates from the IRS, including those related to COVID-19 relief efforts. Your benefits administration partner should offer dedicated in-house expertise to help keep your business in consistent compliance and protected from potential penalties.

Additional benefits and resources
Annual Enrollment is the time of year when your employees are most focused on their benefits. In addition to ensuring they select the right coverage, AE is also a crucial time to remind employees about all of the benefits, tools, and resources available to them. Telehealth services, wellness programs, financial wellness resources, and your employee assistance program (EAP) can be especially helpful options for employees during this particularly stressful time. Take advantage of the spotlight AE brings to your benefits to drive greater value and encourage employees to leverage their entire benefits package.

READ MORE: Discover how employers are adapting to the challenges of COVID-19 without getting overwhelmed.

After reviewing key topics with your team, regroup with your benefits administration technology partner to discuss your objectives for AE. Your service team should be able to provide you with year-over-year insights into your company’s goals, best practices to support your benefits strategy, and ideas to address any specific concerns you have related to COVID-19 or your overall plans.

As you collaborate with your vendors, take time to evaluate the solutions, service, and support they provide to your team and your participants. And for more tips and ideas, download Empyrean’s new At-A-Glance Guide, “2020 Annual Enrollment Prep Guide: Achieve Benefits Success in the Age of COVID-19.”

While many things have changed, you don’t have to leave the success of your benefits program to chance. Optimizing your Open Enrollment approach today will help prepare you and your employees for tomorrow’s virtual world.

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