Open Enrollment Is Over. Now What?

Discover how taking time, after open enrollment closes, could pay off now and in the future by helping your employees thrive and your business meet its goals.

For HR benefits management professionals, open enrollment season is a critical (and hopefully wonderful) time of the year, the culmination of months of hard work, planning and preparation.


Once it’s over and top-line performance results are reported, however, many leaders charged with managing employee benefits often shift focus to other priorities until the following summer.


Going into open enrollment “hibernation” for the winter could be a missed opportunity to assess results, identify employee needs, improve benefits offerings and uncover the best ways to educate employees about retirement benefits throughout the year.  


Here’s how taking a little time in advance could pay off now and in the future, helping your employees thrive and your business meet its goals. 


Look Closely at the Data

When you examine participation data regarding employee participation in workplace benefit offerings, not just as a whole but by segments, it can tell a revealing story about your benefits offerings and who they’re reaching.


With five generations of employees in the workforce together for the first time in history, you might find that some retirement benefits solutions are favored more by older workers than younger employees, and vice versa. For example, while 70% of employees say they want more information about their retirement savings plan, the perceived helpfulness of retirement education and planning related thereto spikes for employees in their 30s and falls off for employees over the age of 60.2


Similarly, you might see that employee participation in retirement benefits and employee preferences differ across genders and ethnicities. For instance, Black and Hispanic employees express particular interest in access to educational resources to help with retirement planning,1 while female workers may lag behind their male counterparts when it comes to planning for longer-term goals, including saving for retirement.3 You may be able to pinpoint disparities in choices between workers at various job levels, in various functions and with various levels of household income and educational attainment. For instance, among employees eligible to participate in employer sponsored 401(k) plans, employee participation rates among low-income earners hovers at 58% compared to 85% employee participation for workers earning over $100,000.4


Going a bit deeper into the numbers can help you identify—and close—some gaps, so that more of your retirement benefits can appeal to more of your eligible employees and their preferences. 


Listen Carefully to Your Employees

After you’ve absorbed participation data regarding employee participation in workplace benefit offerings, consider going right to the source and surveying your employees. Probe to better understand their retirement needs and goals, and what benefits they want most from their employer.


For instance, according to the Morgan Stanley at Work second annual State of the Workplace Financial Benefits Study, 93% of employees say they view retirement planning assistance as a priority when choosing where to work. When asked what types of retirement planning would be most beneficial, employees ranked access to a financial advisor as their top choice, closely followed by goals-based retirement investment planning and access to retirement planning tools and calculators.


Beyond retirement-focused benefits, other popular new additions to employee benefits platforms may include personalized financial wellness programs, caregiver benefits (including flexible work hours for employees who are caregivers), telehealth, mental health benefits and equity compensation.


Look for Ways to Drive Further Engagement

In the post-enrollment period, there may be an opportunity to help employees consider some longer-term financial goals. In fact, one study shows that when employers incorporate key aspects of their retirement plan and financial wellness into employee open enrollment communications, 44% more eligible employees enroll in an employer sponsored 401(k) plan, while existing plan participants double their contributions to their 401(k) plan accounts.5


If you would like to build on these communication strategies post-enrollment, consider the following:

  1. Identify current employee concerns and address them with compassion and empathy by pointing employees towards the right financial resources. 

  2. Extend support by “being real” with employees, making space for people to feel comfortable asking hard or sensitive questions.

  3. Recognize all employees’ needs by providing personalized communications designed to address where employees are in their financial journeys and to close any potential knowledge gaps.

  4. Embrace transparency by clearly outlining any changes made to your retirement benefit plans, explaining why they were made and reviewing how these policies may change again in the future. 

Learn Which Communication Methods Work Best

After open enrollment, take time to evaluate which communication and education methods were most effective in reaching employees and helping them make more informed benefits decisions. Again, it may be helpful to analyze by segment, to determine where particular channels—like email, webinars or live virtual events—perform better for your employees.


Consider also whether new or different platforms need to be more emphasized going forward. With the continued shift towards remote and hybrid work arrangements, traditional on-site educational methods may need to be supplemented with more targeted or digital alternatives, such as SMS, workplace chat, pre-recorded presentations, conference calls, virtual meetings, or direct mail, which can be particularly helpful for non-desk employees who may not have a computer or work email.


Make Open Enrollment a Year-round Focus

Evaluating participation data regarding employee participation in workplace benefit offerings, surveying employees and evaluating communications and education strategies soon after open enrollment ends can help you determine what’s working best—and what you can improve or optimize.


With a deeper view of your company’s employees and their preferences, you can provide more personalized communication and education about benefits offerings throughout the year, helping to build confidence in your offered benefits and encouraging employees to take positive steps to improve their long-term financial wellness and retirement readiness. 

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