Win Annual Enrollment with 3 Es: Empathy, Experience and Efficiency

By Rae Shanahan, Chief Strategy Officer, Businessolver

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"Are you ready?" As soon as Labor Day passes, HR pros start getting this question more often -- at conferences, seminars, networking events and, of course, at internal company meetings. And without consulting a calendar or asking "Ready for what?" you already know: annual enrollment.

We get it: The pressure is high and so are the stakes -- for you and your team, your employees and for your organization. As we head into crunch time, I've found that even the most challenging annual enrollment season can be successful by incorporating the three Es: empathy, experience and efficiency.


Think from others' point of view, from new hires to your CEO.

We HR pros know this industry forward and backward -- the laws, the lingo and everything in between. The average employee? Not so much. Data shows that just 14 percent of American workers can correctly define deductible, copay, coinsurance and out-of-pocket maximum. That's fewer than one in five.

Of course, I don't point that out to frustrate you. On the contrary, my intention is to help you empathize with your employees and help you meet them where they are. Often, where they are during enrollment is busy, stressed, confused and overwhelmed -- but knowing they need to make major financial and health decisions about the year ahead.

That's a tough spot, and no one is better equipped than you to help them out of it. Our research shows that only one-quarter of employees view their organization as empathetic, and about one-third would switch companies at equal pay for a more empathetic one. So, what is the solution? Emphasize the "human" in human resources during annual enrollment: Use enrollment systems, communications and, most importantly, vendor partners that keep empathy front of mind.

Empathy also is valuable in determining what a successful annual enrollment looks like to the C-suite. More movement to the high-deductible health plan? Fewer dependents enrolled? Higher HSA balances? Improved employee satisfaction? Empathetic thinking helps you zero in on how to create those outcomes from the starting line.

When you put yourself in someone else's shoes, auto enrollment is automatically going to be more successful. Empathy helps you to proactively problem solve and to quickly see what someone truly needs or is really asking. Let empathy be your secret weapon this year during enrollment season.


See what your employees see, and use tools and technology accordingly.

Considering the user experience goes hand in hand with empathy. Think about what an employee sees during the enrollment process. When using technology for enrollment, it might seem that the experience can't be personalized, when in fact the opposite is true. Technology, created with user experience principles, can help create an enrollment experience that feels completely personal.

User experience incorporates small touches such as using an employee's name on the enrollment page (psychological studies show the likelihood of a positive interaction increases significantly when you address a person by name) or a counter to show how many days employees have left to enroll. It can also take a bigger form though, including a glossary of common benefits terms that may be unfamiliar to employees, a calculator that clearly shows the total deduction per paycheck for each plan an employee chooses, or a robust recommendation engine that takes employee information to suggest plans that could be best for them.


Keep your data in the most simple, streamlined and secure spot.

Incorporating empathy and user experience most effectively means having all of the information you need at your fingertips -- easily accessible and in a single location. For all of our tech advances, we still see far too many companies with siloed benefits data -- medical plan enrollment in one warehouse, wellness program metrics in another, spending account information in yet another, and so on.

This type of storage is less secure (more opportunities for data breaches) and it slows you down. When you're moving at warp speed, especially during enrollment, you need to operate as seamlessly and nimbly as possible. A single source benefits administration platform makes that possible.

Also, to gauge what's truly important and what will most positively affect your employees and your bottom line, you need to see the whole picture at once. Maintaining your benefits administration on one platform, with robust real-time analytics to show where your plans and your people stand throughout the year, lets you see the forest not just the trees.

Using the three Es can help you stay strategic and focused as open enrollment approaches. Keep them top of mind and the next time someone asks, "Are you ready?" you can reply, "Absolutely."


Sep 19, 2016
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