Annual enrollment for 2022: Not business as usual?
It’s an understatement to say work and life have been anything but “business as unusual” since early 2020. And we’re still evolving and recovering. What does that mean for annual enrollment this year? As employers seek to recover and respond to changed employee expectations, many employers plan to minimize major changes, takeaways or unnecessary cost shifting in their benefit offerings. Instead, they will opt to bolster what they have and provide new offerings that reflect changing needs and priorities.
It will continue to be important to stabilize organizations, given the trauma and burnout from the pandemic and sociopolitical events, and employees who have been rethinking their priorities. All this has contributed to an urgent need for employers to differentiate themselves in the labor market in order to stave off turnover and enhance their value proposition for new talent.
So, no big benefits upheaval, but a chance to capitalize on the enrollment season. Here are some options to consider.
Focus on new social needs.
Many employers will continue to add specific benefit features, such as enriching benefits for balancing work and life, child or elder care resources, work and leave flexibility policies, adding or promoting mental and emotional health resources, and promoting apps and digital tools.
Programs supporting family-building, diversity, and inclusion are on the rise in response to the desire for meaning beyond work. Some employers are improving fertility benefits and resources, as well as LGBTQ-supportive benefits and gender affirmation. And some companies are reviewing ways to better address social determinants of health, such as salary-based premium contributions or other benefit provisions that enhance health equity.
Make the most of communication and technology.
Employers would be wise to review their communication strategies and messaging. Given the concerns over resignations and challenges in luring new talent, annual enrollment provides an opportunity to remind employees of available programs and resources. While the temptation might be to go with a passive, low-touch enrollment, you can leverage these teachable moments.
Whether positioning offerings within your array of total rewards or under the umbrella of total wellbeing, it’s important that employees find it easy to invest time and effort in learning – and electing – benefits that meet their needs. Given hybrid and remote-work models, companies will continue to expand use of technology via mobile solutions, text message reminders, virtual benefit fairs, social media channels and more.
Engage the disengaged.
Employees differing experiences over the past year and a half have ranged from isolation off-site to fears and risks required of essential workers. Many may continue to struggle with physical or mental health issues or financial wellbeing, or may be concerned about expectations for returning to the worksite. Employers can help through timely (and frequent) reminders, such as:
- Make up whatever preventive and maintenance care you’ve been putting off, including medical, dental, or vision care.
- Take advantage of all available wellness offerings—don’t leave related incentives on the table.
- Consider your life situation and needs; staying with the same health plans or skipping Health Savings Account or Flexible Savings Accounts may be missed opportunities.
- Review voluntary benefit options—this may be the right time to get supplemental health, identity or legal protection, pet insurance (for that dog you adopted during the pandemic), or other coverage you may have overlooked.
- Remember your financial security, including keeping beneficiaries up to date and ensuring adequate protection for life, disability, long-term care, and retirement. Consider a financial wellness check-up using plan advisors.
- Don’t forget educational and career resources for you and support for your family, if available.
Many challenges face employers in attracting, retaining and engaging the workforce. We’re not yet at the business-as-usual stage in most organizations, so this is not the time to settle for a business-as-usual enrollment period.
Ruth Hunt, Principal, Engagement