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Cater Your Benefits Enrollment to a Hybrid Workforce


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Why was the fruit/vegetable hybrid upset? She was a melon-cauliflower.

OK, I hope you laughed a little. However, I understand that during this time of year, most of us HR pros aren’t exactly in a laughing mood. Annual enrollment is upon us, and as if that weren’t stressful and challenging enough, many of us have the added challenge this year of managing annual enrollment (AE) across a hybrid workforce.

A recent Zoom survey found that 65% of employees say hybrid is their ideal work model, while 20% prefer to work fully remote, and 15% prefer to work in the office full-time.

Much like everything else for our profession during the past 18 months, there is no guidebook for how to conduct a successful enrollment during a pandemic — let alone one that’s simultaneously onsite and online.

By now, of course, you’ve coordinated with your vendor and carrier partners, aligned with your team, tested your technology, communicated plan and premium changes, and hopefully gotten the investments you need from the C-suite to keep employees safe, secure, informed and engaged as they select their plans for the year ahead — whether they’re doing that from their cubicle or their couch.

So, as you enter the final countdown, I’ll offer up three ways to give your hybrid enrollment an extra boost that employees — in-person and remote — will ap-prius-iate. (That was the last hybrid joke, I promise.)

Give the Gift of Time

Many HR/benefits professionals have a hard close to their enrollment window — with good reason. There is precious little time between when AE closes in the fall and Jan. 1, the traditional start of the plan year, to make sure elections get processed and set up for payroll deduction accurately.

However, to the extent that you’re able, allow for more of a “soft” close to AE this year. After a year of remote work, many employees (maybe even ourselves included) need to be reminded what day of the week it is every morning — never mind that annual enrollment closes on a specific Friday in November at 11:59 p.m.

Offer grace to your employees — and even family decision-makers who aren’t your employees — by extending your enrollment window to provide more time to consider their plan options, consult their family and financial outlook, and make benefits decisions.

Too many employees sleepwalked through enrollment last year without making the proper benefits adjustments for their post-pandemic life. And we already know that even in a “normal” year, more than 90% of employees elect the same benefits year over year, with less than an hour of consideration. If there ever was a year to give more time to encourage them to make more thoughtful choices, it’s this one. Even if it’s only a few extra days, it could make all the difference. 

If you’re able to add virtual “AE office hours” outside of in-office availability to answer employee questions by email or chat — that could be a boost as well. When working remotely, many employees are doing school carpools, helping with homework or meeting caregiving responsibilities for loved ones in between online work and meetings. So, they may want to focus solely on work during in-office time — no offense to your exceptional lunch-and-learn agenda.

Staying flexible with employee time constraints and work style preferences will surely take you a long way toward achieving your goals, which at the end of the day is well-informed employees making well-informed benefits decisions for the year ahead. That’s worth a little extra time.

Add a Personal Touch

Whether looking for our next streaming binge on Netflix or shopping binge on Amazon, we’ve all spent the better part of the last two years having algorithms give us personalized recommendations for what we like, want or need.  

Employees are more conditioned than ever to that level of personalization, so help fulfill that need during enrollment by highlighting new or existing voluntary benefits that fit their needs:

  • One in five households welcomed a new “pandemic pet” during the last year. Remind employees you have pet insurance they might want to check out. 
  • Nearly one-quarter (23%) of caregivers said the pandemic has changed their caregiving needs. Does your organization offer health care advocacy, flexible spending accounts or other benefits to support caregivers? Now is the time to tout those.
  • And speaking of caregiving, parents — with the benefit of hindsight brought by school closures and virtual learning — likely see the benefit of dependent care FSAs like never before. Don’t miss this golden opportunity to highlight them.

These are just a few examples of ways you can personalize the enrollment experience. Creating “People like you” segmentation in enrollment emails, or even simply adding names to digital communications are also easy and effective ways to let employees know “I see you,” even if it’s only virtually.

Mobile Access

Statistics show that, in the U.S. alone, 85% of people have a smartphone, and that the average person is usually no more than three feet away from it at any given time. So, regardless of whether your workforce is in-office, remote, or both, you have a way to reach them 24/7. Use that to your advantage this AE season:

  • Use email to invite employees to opt-in to text reminders, calendar holds and updates about annual enrollment.
  • Ensure all of your enrollment communications are accessible via mobile and/or app — and that they visually render the same and offer the same resources and opportunities for additional support.
  • Allow employees to enroll online via desktop or mobile, so they can complete it during a time that’s convenient and available for them — not simply when they’re in the office.

Other than that, remember to breathe, to laugh, and keep in mind it only lasts a few weeks. If we can get through last year, we can do this. I wish you a safe and successful AE season.

Relevant WorldatWork Resources:

About the Author

 Marcy Klipfel is the chief engagement officer at Businessolver.

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