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3 Ways to Demystify Benefits Open Enrollment

Benefits Management

Every year, benefits season rolls around. And every year, HR departments rev up their engines and kick into high gear to prepare their districts for open enrollment. Though the specific timeframe for enrollment may vary by state, the amount of hard work and preparation that goes into it does not.

But when it comes to navigating benefits, sometimes it feels like wandering through a thick layer of fog with no clear path to take. From insurance jargon to sorting through stacks of paperwork, benefits enrollment can leave employees feeling dazed and confused. The process is complex and complicated for all parties involved, so it’s no surprise that benefit literacy is generally low. According to the International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans (IFEBP), nearly half of employees in the United States don’t understand their benefits.


A closer look into benefit literacy:

Source: Voya Financial Consumer Survey

With that statistic in mind, it’s important to ask: how can school districts relieve the confusion their employees face and the arduous tasks their HR teams tackle during benefit season?

Let’s take a look at one Pennsylvania school district’s journey with benefits management, and how automating their processes into one system demystified benefits open enrollment for their employees.

Curious to know more about Spring Grove?

Read the case study to learn how they became a destination district. Read Now


The recap

With an easy-to-follow benefits enrollment process, Spring Grove was able to empower their employees to confidently select plans. One teacher described the new process as “settling for my brain, my heart, and my wallet.”

The next step

What’s next? It’s time to learn how you can demystify benefits open enrollment in your district! You may already have several tried-and-true tactics in your district, but here are three additional best practices to consider for your most seamless and interactive open enrollment season yet:


1. Communication is key

There’s no sugar coating it – benefits enrollment is stressful. And when employees don’t have a detailed understanding of what benefits they’re choosing, it becomes even more so. For employees to confidently enroll in a plan that best suits their personal or familial needs, they need to be fully informed and supported. One of the best ways to ensure this is through communication.

When you begin to think about effective communication strategies, these “three c’s” should be front and center: clear, concise, and creative.

  • Clear: As aforementioned, insurance jargon is just plain confusing. What’s an out-of-pocket maximum? What does an HSA-eligible plan even mean? With an ongoing slew of information, it can be hard to pinpoint what’s actually important. If you can, remove any ambiguity.
  • Concise: The IFEBP also found that 80% of employees don’t open/read benefits communications. If your staff receives a massive benefit handbook, they very well could be in that 80%. The takeaway? Keep it simple.
  • Creative: Don’t be afraid to mix up your delivery methods. Every individual has a different learning style. Cover all the bases by offering multimodal and multi-channel communications. Whether it’s an educational comic strip, a visual timeline of important dates, or a breakout 1:1 session, varying your methods will increase engagement.


Learn the lingo:

  • ACA – Affordable Care Act
  • HSA – Health Savings Account
  • HDHP – High Deductible Health Plan
  • HMO – Health Maintenance Organization
  • FSA – Flex Spending Account
  • OEP – Open Enrollment Period
  • PPO – Preferred Provider Organization
  • SEP – Special Enrollment Period
  • QLE – Qualifying Life Event


2. It’s more than just seasonal support

Open enrollment may be seasonal but benefits sure aren’t — it’s crucial to keep the conversation going all year long. In doing so, districts can help their employees stay engaged with their benefits, understand how their annual plan works, and better prepare them for the next open enrollment season.

And when it comes to qualifying life events (the birth or adoption of a child, change in marital status, a dependent turning twenty-six, etc.), employees need easily-accessible support at any given time. What if, three months after selecting a plan, an employee has to make a change due to one of these life-changing circumstances? They’re hoping the switch will be simple and smooth, but instead they have to jump through hoops and flip through pages of a handbook just to see what the first step is. By offering year-round support, employees will know exactly where to turn, and frustrating scenarios like this can be avoided all together.

Tips for year-round support:

  • Create a 12-month communication calendar: This is a great opportunity to visually outline what conversation is the most valuable to your employees each month. Perhaps it’s a back-to-school annual physical reminder or a telehealth information session. You can even align your communications with health awareness dates like:
  • Promote a wellness campaign: Get your staff on a health kick with events like a nutritional challenge, an employee field day, or a meditation-station.
  • Get feedback: Generate a survey and ask your employees what’s working well vs. what’s not. Do they want more creative resources? Do they want monthly reminders on how their benefit plan actually works?
  • Send reminders throughout the year: If health care plans offer free preventative care such as vaccines, screenings, checkups, nurse resources, health tools, and other options even before they meet their deductible, schedule regular communications reminding employees to get the most from their benefits.


Hand-picked content:

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3. Ditch the paper and go digital

If your open enrollment season is still a series of manual processes, your HR team might find it hard to locate records, struggle to read illegible handwriting on forms, have to spend time updating inaccurate employee information, and face redundant data entry. Not only that, but stacks of paperwork can often feel daunting and even tamper the enrollment experience for new hires.

Take a moment to reflect on these questions:
How much time does your team spend transcribing written data?

How many pages is your employee benefits packet?

How long do you spend tracking down or updating employee information?

Are your answers a little (or a lot) higher than you would like them to be? If so, it’s probably time to ditch the paper. When you make the switch to a digital benefits process, your district will cut costs and save time, and employees will have a fuller understanding of benefits enrollment.


The benefits of going digital:

  • With self-enrollment, employees can make their own benefits decisions
  • The employee experience is improved through increased flexibility
  • HR teams can provide a greater level of support to their employees
  • Countless trees are saved through more sustainable processes


Spring Grove Spotlight
“Trying to manage benefits without a system is, very honestly, impossible. [With a system] you can keep track of information, put the decision-making in the hands of the employees, allow them to make their own selections, and produce the information about those selections to various vendors to update the plan selection.” — AnJie Doll, Director of Human Resources


The bottom line

Are you ready to start your journey toward demystifying benefits enrollment in your district? Frontline HRMS can help.

With Frontline, staff will be able to digitally…

  • Select and enroll in benefits packages
  • Adjust life/qualifying events as situations change
  • Change contact information with the click of a button
  • Access pertinent information pertaining to individual plans

Learn more about benefits management with Frontline HRMS.

Erin Shelton

Erin is a writer and member of the award-winning content team at Frontline Education. With experience in education, she is passionate about creating content that helps to support and impact the growth of both students and teachers.