Why it’s time to rebrand open enrollment

Help employees think about the process as an annual financial check-up with these 3 steps.
By: | September 23, 2019 • 4 min read

Many employees still think of open enrollment as an annoying multi-choice chore—a required task they put off for as long as they can, then complete as quickly as possible. This is unfortunate because, in truth, open enrollment is something far more positive and helpful—the perfect opportunity for your employees to save themselves money with smarter benefits decisions. Or put another way: a built-in annual financial check-up.

Most financial-wellness programs focus on helping employees make better choices about post-paycheck activities like creating—and sticking to—a budget. The challenge with these initiatives, however, is that the advice tends to be general and lacks urgency—and success is nearly impossible to measure.

This is why employers who focus on offering advice about what employees should do with their pre-paycheck earnings—i.e. their pre-tax gross pay—have a much better chance of driving dramatic, quantifiable results.


What do I mean? Well, when employees make the choice to automatically direct money into a 401(k) or an HSA every few weeks, they end up saving hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars on taxes by barely lifting a finger. And when employers make their open-enrollment period the annual trigger for preaching the virtues of these pre-paycheck benefits decisions, not only do their employees take action (by the enrollment deadline, too), those employers save their companies money by reducing their payroll taxes as well.

Here are three messages you can use to help your employees see open enrollment as their annual financial check-up:

  1. Open enrollment is when they can make sure next year’s benefits will match next year’s needs.

A lot can change in a year—maybe an employee is planning surgery, or planning to have a baby, or just planning to stay real chill for a dozen months or so. The point is, the medical plan they chose last year might not be the best financial option for next year.

Ideally, your employees have access to a decision-support tool to help walk them through the costs and benefits of each of their options, based on the care they anticipate needing. But at the very least, thoughtful messaging can remind them to consider how their big life changes might affect their benefits and offer some guidance about the questions they should be asking.

  1. Open enrollment is when they can tinker with their pre-paycheck decisions—and save real money.

Your employees are far more likely to know their monthly mortgage payment or cable bill by heart than the insurance premiums, federal and state taxes, or tax-savings-account contributions automatically taken from their paychecks.