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Open Enrollment Invites Discussions About Employee Benefits Participation

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Last Update: November 27, 2023

Open enrollment is a critical time for both employers and employees. It allows workers to review their benefits package, make changes, enroll in new programs, or opt out of ones they no longer need.

However, it can be challenging for employers to engage employees in the open enrollment process and maximize participation rates. Research from Voya Financial indicates that over a third of employees don’t fully understand the workplace benefits available to them, and that number jumps to 54% among millennials.1

In this article, we will explore how promoting open conversations surrounding employee benefits during open enrollment can increase participation rates.

Building Awareness

Open enrollment provides an excellent opportunity for employers to educate their workforce about the value and significance of employee benefits beyond just salary.

One effective strategy is to hold informational sessions or workshops before the start of open enrollment. These sessions can familiarize employees with various benefit options available to them, such as health insurance plans, retirement savings plans, flexible spending accounts, and more.

By explaining how each workplace benefit works and highlighting key advantages like tax savings or employer matching contributions, employers can help employees understand why participating in these programs matters.

When staff members recognize that these benefits improve their financial security or overall well-being, they are more likely to actively participate during open enrollment.

Clear Communication Channels

Another factor that contributes significantly to increased participation is having clear and accessible communication channels. Employers should ensure that all employees receive complete information about the open enrollment period, including deadlines and instructions for accessing online portals or meeting with benefits specialists.

HR managers can communicate this information through multiple channels such as email, company newsletters, intranet platforms, and even physical posters in common areas. By using different mediums, employers can reach employees who might have different preferences when it comes to receiving information.

Moreover, offering personalized guidance during the enrollment process can also be beneficial. This may involve providing access to dedicated benefits representatives who can answer questions and assist employees in making informed decisions.

Engaging Leadership Support

Leadership support plays a crucial role in encouraging employee participation during open enrollment. When leaders actively engage with the process themselves by sharing their own experiences or promoting the importance of participating in benefit programs, it sets a positive example for other employees.

Leaders should also be encouraged to openly discuss their personal utilization of various benefit packages during team meetings or informal conversations. This approach helps demystify the process and creates a comfortable environment where employees feel empowered to ask questions without judgment.

Additionally, involving leadership in open enrollment strategies provides an opportunity for them to reiterate how these benefits align with company values and reinforce the organization's commitment to employee well-being.

Tailoring Benefit Options to Employee Needs

Providing customizable benefit options that are tailored to meet the specific needs of employees not only allows organizations to better support their employees but also attract and retain talent. Research from MetLife found that offering a variety of benefits was a significant factor in building loyalty in the workplace.2

To determine where your coverage should start, conducting surveys or focus groups can help your organization understand what benefits employees value most.

For example, if a majority of employees express interest in work-life balance, employers may consider offering flexible work arrangements or additional vacation time as part of their benefits package.

By aligning benefits with employee preferences and priorities, employers can create a sense of value and relevance, increasing employee engagement during open enrollment.

Education and Training

While open enrollment provides an opportunity for employees to make informed decisions about their benefits package, it is important that they have access to proper education and training materials. Employers can provide resources such as online tutorials, explainer videos, or even one-on-one consultations with HR representatives.

These educational resources should focus on explaining complex concepts like deductibles or retirement plans in simple terms so that all employees can understand their options.

For example, by promoting financial wellness and emphasizing the long-term impact of benefits decisions on individuals' lives, employers can empower employees to actively participate in financial wellness programs and open enrollment.


Another effective strategy for driving employee participation during open enrollment is offering incentives. These incentives could range from non-monetary rewards such as preferred parking spots to tangible rewards such as additional paid time off.

By providing incentives, employers create a sense of excitement and motivation for employees to engage in the open enrollment process. It also reinforces the importance of benefits participation and can serve as a reminder of the value these programs bring to their lives.

Competitions or challenges related to open enrollment can also encourage healthy competition among employees and further increase participation rates. For example, employers can track which team or department has the highest enrollment percentage and offer a prize for the winning group.

Continuous Evaluation and Improvement

Finally, it is vital for employers to continuously evaluate their open enrollment strategies and make improvements based on feedback from employees. Conducting post-enrollment surveys allows organizations to gauge employee satisfaction with their benefits selections as well as gather suggestions for improvement.

These evaluations can help identify any pain points in the process that may have hindered participation rates. Whether it's improving communication channels or streamlining online platforms, making necessary adjustments will enhance future open enrollment experiences.

Open Enrollment Means an Open Door to Conversations about Employee Benefits Participation

Open enrollment presents an opportunity for both employers and employees to engage in conversations about workplace benefits packages.

Driving higher participation rates in workplace benefits packages requires more than just presenting information, however. It requires creating an ongoing dialogue that addresses individual needs, simplifies enrollment, and actively involves employees in meaningful conversations about their own well-being at work.



1 - https://www.voya.com/news/2021/01/voya-survey-finds-one-third-american-workers-dont-understand-benefits-they-selected

2 - https://www.metlife.com/employee-benefit-trends/ebts2020-holistic-well-being-drives-workforce-success/

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