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What Open Enrollment Might Be Like This Fall, When…

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Just as employers across the country begin to button-up their return to work strategy and even welcome employees back into the workplace, the hopes of reaching a sense of normalcy this fall appear to be slipping away at an erratic pace. While only halfway over, 2020 has proven to be a year of uncertainty, with widespread concern and caution taking center stage in all facets of life with no end in sight.

(Related: Expect ‘Choppy’ Economy for Rest of 2020: ClearBridge)

As employees consider their health care needs and finances amidst this enduring pandemic, the upcoming open enrollment season will be a critical opportunity to reevaluate these decisions. But, what will open enrollment look like this fall when no one knows what the fall will look like?

As a benefits professional focused on client management and employee education over the last ten years, I’ve certainly witnessed my fair share of organizational shifts in the way open enrollment is handled and presented across an array of industries and company sizes. But never before have employers felt so unsure and seemingly ill-equipped to manage their company’s annual enrollment than in the current environment. While many organizations have focused on effective virtual communication strategies over the last several months that will surely serve as stepping stones in this endeavor, planning for open enrollment this fall will require a more intentional and developed approach.

Here’s the good news – virtual benefits communications are here to stay regardless of the circumstances. As employees from all different generations have been forced into using technology to not only complete their work but also connect with loved ones, shop for groceries and essentials, and maintain their lives in general, employers have a unique opportunity to leverage digital strategies and solutions in their open enrollment events.

I feel confident that the advantages of these digital solutions (e.g. convenience and flexibility, reporting and analytics, personalization) will solidify their place in open enrollment strategies for the foreseeable future, and employers and employees alike will begin to question some of the tired and traditional open enrollment tactics of the past to the point that they become almost nonexistent.

So that being said, what will open enrollment look like this year? While many Fortune 500 companies have already jumped on board with comprehensive and fully customized virtual event platforms to host their events (in fact, as of this article’s publish date, several of the top vendors in this space are already completely booked for the fall season), smaller organizations will be relying on both innovation and creativity to educate and equip their workforce for benefits enrollment.

Whether it’s through a recorded PowerPoint presentation or a live webinar, partnering with a decision support vendor, or developing a virtual benefits fair with vendor booths or breakout sessions, employees should expect to receive benefits communications and education via a multitude of digital communication channels.

The use of digital tactics certainly places the responsibility in the consumer’s hands to ensure individual employees engage with and absorb the information provided, and only time will tell if these technologies will cement themselves as effective and meaningful ways to manage open enrollment. But for employers embarking on a journey into the unknown this upcoming fall season, one thing is for certain: embracing a digitalized and virtual benefits experience will be instrumental to their open enrollment success.

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Heather Rabinowitz (Credit: OneDigital)Heather Rabinowitz is the national practice leader for member engagement and communications at OneDigital.