Summer is a slow time for many industries, but for many human resource professionals, it’s the time to start planning for open enrollment at their organizations.


We all know that retaining valuable employees is critical to an organization’s success. We also know that not all firms can offer the kind of benefits that Burton (season passes and boarding at lunch), Southwest Airlines (unlimited plane tickets), or Ben & Jerry’s (three quarts of take-home ice cream every day), can offer. But it is important to assess what types of (reasonable) benefits are important to your employees and then ensure that employees are adequately aware of their options during the annual open enrollment period.


Tip for Planning for Open Enrollment


One way to gather this information is to hold employee listening sessions. This may seem obvious, but we are constantly surprised by the frequency in which we hear from customers how amazed they are that we have real conversations with them and that we take action on what we’re hearing from them. You can build a remarkable amount of loyalty by asking for employee input and then following through on that feedback.


Employee Listening Sessions


Many companies already have mature employee listening strategies. That said, if you’re new to the concept, the folks over at the Academy to Innovate HR (AIHR) have a great article on why developing an employee listening strategy is worthwhile, and some key do’s and don’ts to consider. Depending on the size of your organization, and the frequency of your surveys, you may want to consider some of the more expansive software platforms for employee listening that are referenced in the AIHR article. But for smaller and mid-size organizations, you can use our Question Form feature to ask open-ended questions, as well as checkbox, dropdown, and multiple choice queries.


Peyton Traina, human resources professional and current human resources management graduate student, shared some tips with us:


  • Ensure that you are asking questions that stay within the bounds of what the company can afford. If you’re asking survey questions that make the impossible seem possible to your employees, you may be setting expectations upon which your firm cannot follow-through.
  • With your survey data, always keep in mind what your minimum participation rates are in order to reach your published rates/benefits.
  • Make sure that you’re not asking questions that employees will be hesitant to answer due to privacy concerns.


In addition, AIHR recommends in-person or virtual focus groups. This is a great way to hear and experience direct feedback in real time. Sure, surveys can be valuable, but in person, you can ask all of those follow-up questions immediately and directly. You can also see the respondent’s face and thereby better understand the emotions with which feedback is being conveyed. You can create a multiple date/location event and then use Lists with Time Spots to offer options for focus group meetings. Here’s an example.


  • Although this method takes a little more effort than simply distributing a survey, Ms. Traina indicated that this method is very effective in both quantitative AND qualitative information, and eliciting employee engagement.


Offer Benefits Presentations with Q & A


Once you understand any benefit changes for the given year, you’ll want to clearly communicate both your offerings and the specifics of any year-over-year changes. With the pandemic behind us, many organizations operate in hybrid work environments. You may want to consider benefits Q & A sessions that are both in-person and virtual. The Society for Human Resources Management (SHRM) suggests holding these sessions in the September/October time frame — well ahead of open enrollment in November or December. By offering multiple sessions, you can avoid creating ghost-town departments during the work day.  You can break down the sessions by topic and also limit the number of people attending per department. This way, efficiency is maximized for both the employee and the organization. Here’s an example of an open enrollment presentation signup that includes multiple dates, in-person and virtual options, and also benefit-specific sessions.


While our tips for planning for open enrollment are focussed on organizing listening and learning sessions, we know it’s no easy task to clearly communicate the details of your various benefits options to your employees in a succinct manner. SHRM’s Open Enrollment Guide and Resources, will go a long way to providing pertinent materials to aid you in this challenging task.


Have any tips to share? Do tell!