Open Enrollment Tips for Employers & a Checklist for Success

April 2023

Both employees and employers might see open enrollment as a stressful and confusing time, and without a clear communication plan, it can be.

The first step to a successful open enrollment period is outlining a strategy that will benefit each stakeholder. For employers, open enrollment is a chance to connect with employees, advertise the benefits you offer, and brand yourself as a reliable organization. With intentional, accurate, and strategic communication, you can make the most out of your open enrollment period and drive employee engagement and retention year-round.

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Open Enrollment Period

In most cases, open enrollment is held in October, November, or December, but some organizations hold open enrollment in May or June for a July 1st plan year. Employees can only enroll or make changes outside of the open enrollment if they’ve had a qualifying life event, like a new hire, divorce, or the birth of a child.

Employers offer an open enrollment period (OEP) each year to fulfill plan obligations, including: 

  • Providing written notice of open enrollment
  • Offering a reasonable opportunity to enroll
  • Disclosing benefit changes and coverage options including dependent care, dental plan, vision coverage, health plan, and more
  • Complying with anti-discrimination laws and applicable regulations
  • Providing plan materials and disclosures

A Crucial Period for Employers

A competitive, well-communicated benefits package can help your organization attract and retain top talent, improve employee satisfaction, demonstrate a commitment to employee well-being, and reduce financial stress on your teams. Leveraging your open enrollment period (and beyond) to effectively communicate everything you offer can help you capture these benefits. 

Key Players in Open Enrollment

A smooth open enrollment relies on several key players: HR managers, brokers, and employees.

HR Managers

HR Managers play a pivotal role in benefits selection, communication, and more – before, during, and after the open enrollment period. Typical duties assigned to an HR Manager include: 

  • Plan Selection: HR managers are responsible for evaluating the costs and benefits of various plans, making recommendations to senior management, and selecting the benefit plans that will be offered to employees. 
  • Communication: Typically, a company’s HR department will own benefits communication. This might include sending out emails, newsletters, or other forms of communication to inform employees about important deadlines, plan changes, and other relevant information.
  • Employee Support: One of the most important roles is providing support to employees while they enroll in benefits. This may include answering questions about the different health insurance plans, helping employees complete enrollment forms, and providing guidance on how to make the best choices based on their individual needs.
  • Compliance: Of course, managers must ensure that the plans offered to comply with all applicable laws and regulations, like the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA). They also ensure that employees are provided with required notices and disclosures.
  • Record-Keeping: The HR department will maintain accurate records of employee enrollment decisions and other information related to the health insurance plans offered by the employer.


Brokers and consultants often play a big role in their client’s benefits plans and open enrollment strategies. They are expected to manage and navigate the complex process of selecting, enrolling, and communicating options for their organizations and employees. Below are a few of the many responsibilities a broker or consultant holds during open enrollment:  

  • Providing guidance and education: Brokers can help organizations understand the different health insurance plans available, the benefits and costs associated with each plan, and any changes in plan options from previous years.
  • Assisting with plan selection: Based on your specific needs, brokers can provide recommendations on which health insurance plans would be the most appropriate and cost-effective.
  • Enrolling in plans: Assist with the enrollment process, help individuals and employers fill out applications, submit required documentation, and ensure that enrollment deadlines are met.
  • Providing ongoing support: Brokers can offer ongoing support throughout the year, assisting with questions related to plan benefits, claims, and any changes that may arise during the policy term.


Of course, employees are at the center of open enrollment. They’re the ones who are affected by the benefits and make decisions about their health insurance coverage for the upcoming year. Some of their responsibilities include: 

  • Reviewing plan options: Employees should take the time to review the different health insurance plans available to them, including any changes from previous years. 
  • Assessing their healthcare needs: While reviewing their options, employees will assess their healthcare needs, taking into account factors such as their age, health status, dependents, and any anticipated medical expenses for the coming year.
  • Comparing costs and benefits: Employees compare the costs and benefits of each health insurance plan, considering premiums, deductibles, copays, and coverage.
  • Making informed decisions: Based on their assessment of plan options and healthcare needs, employees should make informed decisions about which plan(s) to enroll in for the upcoming year.
  • Enrolling in a plan: Finally, an employee will enroll in the health insurance plan that best meets their needs and their family’s needs before the enrollment deadline.


Tips for Employers

Hosting a successful open enrollment is key to engagement and retention to start your new year off strong. These tips can make it easy for employees to understand, enroll in, and access their benefits. 

Start Early 

Make sure you have all the information you need to communicate with your employees well in advance. And start this communication early to give your employees time to address and understand their current coverage, changes, and options going forward. This includes premiums, deductibles, copays, coverage, and provider network for each plan. 

Keep it Simple 

In most cases simplicity is key. This is especially true for employee benefits communication. The process is already complicated so don’t overcomplicate it with conflicting communication or an unclear enrollment process. Outline how and when each employee should enroll by and make it easy to do so with in-person and online enrollment. You can also consider offering extended enrollment hours or a grace period after the deadline. 

Be Transparent

Use clear language to explain options, costs, and benefits, and be open and honest about any plan changes. Share cost breakdowns so employees can easily compare plan options. If accessible, offer online calculators or comparison charts to reduce complexity. Finally, providing access to plan documents during the open enrollment period can help employees make informed decisions and prevent surprises later. 

Encourage Employee Engagement

When employees don’t actively engage in open enrollment, they’re more likely to run into surprises and frustrations later. You can encourage engagement by communicating consistently, offering training sessions, and sharing enrollment metrics transparently to move the dial throughout the enrollment period. 

Use Multiple Communication Channels

Send out emails and newsletters, post flyers, and hold meetings to let your employees know about open enrollment. Tailor your communications to your employees’ needs and interests, focusing on the benefits your employees are most likely to leverage. Be sure to explain the process and answer any questions they may have. 

Checklist for Open Enrollment Communication

Benefits administration is complex. From making plan decisions to ensuring compliance with state and federal law and calculating employee and employer contributions, it’s easy to drop the ball when it comes to communication or employee support. These steps are even more complicated for small employers who don’t have a dedicated human resources department. 

Using an open enrollment checklist can help you host an efficient, effective, and compliant open enrollment process. This comprehensive checklist can keep you organized, increase accuracy, improve compliance, streamline communication, and save time and resources. 

  • Notify employees about the open enrollment period well in advance.
  • Prepare and distribute written communications about open enrollment, including deadlines, plan changes, and available options.
  • Update and distribute any plan documents or summaries.
  • Provide employees with clear information about each plan option, including costs, benefits, and network providers.
  • Offer decision-making tools like online calculators or comparison charts to help employees evaluate plan options.
  • Host informational sessions or webinars to provide employees with more detailed information about plan options.
  • Ensure that employees have access to a broker or plan administrator who can answer any questions or concerns.
  • Verify that all eligible employees have been offered coverage and provided with enrollment materials.
  • Ensure that all employee contributions, premiums, and deductions are accurately reflected in payroll records.
  • Verify that the employer contribution is accurately reflected in the plan’s billing records.
  • Confirm that all employee data, including names, addresses, and dependents, are accurate and up-to-date.
  • Confirm that all plan documents and disclosures have been distributed to employees as required.
  • Monitor enrollment activity and follow up with any employees who have not enrolled.
  • Remind employees about any additional benefits, such as wellness programs or employee assistance programs, that are available to them.
  • Evaluate the success of the open enrollment process and make any necessary adjustments for the next enrollment period.

By following this checklist, employers can help ensure that open enrollment is a smooth and successful process for all employees.

Download your open enrollment checklist.

Your Go-To Partner Throughout Open Enrollment – BeneCom

Are you struggling to communicate your benefits program effectively to your employees? BeneCom Associates is your partner in employer benefits. We specialize in creating customized communication plans that educate and engage your employees about their benefits options, leading to better decision-making and higher satisfaction rates. Contact us today to learn more.