Managing Open Enrollment for Hourly Workers During COVID-19

August 10, 2020 - minute read

Before we know it, enrollment season will be upon us. While this is always a challenging time for employers—particularly those managing an hourly workforce—this year will be even more so. Thanks to COVID, gone are the large group meetings and fairs so many rely on. This year, employers will need to leverage online enrollment solutions more fully.

In addition, employers should be mindful of their workers’ changed priorities. It’s not enough to recycle last year’s enrollment materials. The world has changed. Workers’ expectations have changed. The most effective open enrollment campaigns will address these issues head on.

Making the Most of Your Online Enrollment System

According to one study, about half of U.S. employers are already conducting open enrollments online, although many rely on a mix of digital and paper-based processes. While we don’t know what percentage of them manage hourly workers, we do know that the pandemic has accelerated the leap to tech-based open enrollments.

The good news: hourly workers may be more receptive than in the past. After all, the last six months have been an exercise in adaptation—which includes an increased reliance on technology. While Millennials and Gen Z workers already prefer digital communications, even older workers may be more ready to jump on board.

That being said, here’s five ways you can improve your employees’ online enrollment experience in the era of COVID-19.

  • Replace in-Person Meetings with Videoconferencing

The most effective open-enrollment campaigns employ multiple types of media to communicate with workers. People have different styles of learning, and many of us need to hear or read information several times before we can fully process it.

So, while it’s crucial to have well-written, easy-to-read content on your enrollment portal, some workers may have depended on past year’s live enrollment sessions for their information. This year, consider offering live and/or recorded video-sessions to lead workers through the enrollment process to fill that void.

  • Offer Decision-Support Tools

It’s not enough to offer your employees multiple plan options—you need to help them determine which one is best for them and why. That’s especially important now, when workers value their health insurance, but may have less household income to work with.

By offering enrollment decision-support tools—quizzes, pros-and-cons lists, side-by-side plan comparisons—you can help your workers understand their choices and make more informed decisions.  

  • Highlight Your Mental Health Offerings

Between health and economic fears, many workers are experiencing elevated anxiety and depression these days—and if you manage frontline workers, they’re carrying an even larger burden. Some experts are predicting a rise in clinical mental health disorders, addiction, and suicides as a byproduct of COVID-19. Use your open enrollment to ensure your workers know what resources are available to them: mental health benefits, employee assistance programs, fitness discounts, etc.

In fact, according to an International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans (IFEBP) survey, 17% of employers have increased their mental health offerings because of the pandemic, and others are considering it. This is good for productivity and is also good for your people.

  • Make Sure Your Platform is Mobile-friendly

Not every hourly worker has access to a PC or laptop, but pretty much everyone has a smartphone. While you may have been told your enrollment platform is mobile-friendly, be sure test it in advance. Make sure plan comparisons and other decision-support tools translate well to handheld screens.

  • Offer Personal Consults

There’s a good chance your workers will be more interested in the specifics of their life and health benefits this year. COVID has made many people more-educated insurance consumers. Be ready to field more questions, and give employees an accessible vehicle for getting their questions answered. Offering workers one-on-one time with HR or benefits consultants will help them make informed decisions—and increase their satisfaction with your benefits program.

How EPAY Handles Open Enrollment

EPAY’s HCM solution is geared specifically to employers managing an hourly workforce, and that includes our online enrollment platform. A cornerstone of our full-service benefits module, it offers many features that will be particularly helpful with this year’s open enrollment. For example, our portal:

  • Is both web and mobile friendly and hosts all types of media—so workers can read materials, get notified of videoconferences, and enroll remotely from any device.
  • Allows workers to compare multiple plans side-by-side, so they can make informed choices.
  • Accommodates multiple languages, improving communication with multi-lingual workers.
  • Sends reminders to those who have yet to enroll, keeping everyone on point.  
  • Simplifies administration, offers easy-to-use tracking functions, and uploads data to insurance carriers—saving HR teams time and effort at a time when they have so much on their plate.

In summary, this year, life and health insurance benefits will be especially important to workers. Hourly employees value their benefits as much as salaried ones, but may need a little more support to fully take advantage of them. EPAY can help with that--to see how, check this out

Filed Under: Employee Benefits COVID-19