Open Enrollment

How employers can demystify open enrollment for employees

Oct 07, 2023

Key takeaways

  • Employees understand the important role benefits play in their holistic health
  • However, data shows that many employees don’t fully understand their benefits
  • Employers can help employees make sense of open enrollment – and maximize their options

Open enrollment season is here again. As benefits continue to play a massive role in employees’ lives both at and outside of work, making sure they understand those benefits has become increasingly important. This is particularly true as the latest data from MetLife’s Employee Benefit Trends Study found workers who understand their benefits are happier (76%). To ensure they better understand their offerings, employers should be mindful of helping employees overcome these common barriers:latest data

Education: Nearly one in every five employees are either not at all confident – or only slightly confident – in their understanding of benefits. 

Procrastination: Nearly one-third of employees procrastinated when selecting their benefits last year and 37% wish they’d had more time to make the right choices.

Consultation: Nearly half of employees (44%) didn’t consult others before enrolling in benefits last year, ultimately leading them to be less likely to fully understand their benefits. 

Insights like these underscore that employers can help their workforce make more confident open enrollment decisions. Particularly as one in six employees say they regret their open enrollment decisions from last year, the steps employers take now can help employees feel happier on the job, which is the most important aspect of their work experience (per 73% of employees).

Recommended actions for employers 

As employee benefits continue to influence the employee experience, employers have an opportunity to help employees make the most out of open enrollment. To improve employees’ understanding of their benefits and build a happier, more loyal workforce, employers should consider the following:

Enhance communication tactics: Our data found that employees are eager for enhanced educational materials to help them better understand their benefits –
specifically, employees say that a better understanding of what benefits they can access and what those cover would improve their overall sense of stability (62%). Additionally, 65% of employees say they want their employer to communicate with them about benefits year-round and not just at open enrollment.

Provide personalized recommendations: Today’s employees want a much higher level of personalization, including benefits communication that make them feel seen, heard, and cared for. More than half of employees (54%) say they wish they had personalized benefits recommendations provided to them. That number increases even more when looking at younger generations – 63% of Gen Z and 60% of millennial employees are looking for more personalized benefits experiences. 

Encourage a two-way dialogue: 38% of employees say that employers should have a HR team available to answer questions, while 36% say that employers should provide access to expert guidance about benefits. Some employees are looking for outside input and employers can help them feel supported by making live resources available to them on an ongoing basis during open enrollment.

Beyond HR and expert guidance, employees also want to feel as though they can talk with their colleagues openly about benefits, stating that informal opportunities to compare benefits make them 11% more satisfied with the open enrollment choices they make. 

Empower managers: One in three employees prefers to learn about benefits via discussions with their manager, and yet, four in 10 managers say they don’t know how to be a role model for direct reports in terms of choosing and using benefits. As such, employers should consider ways to empower managers with the training they need to be trusted advisors to their direct reports during the benefits election process. This may include providing more resources and training to managers as it relates to advising on benefits specifically.

The win-win impact of supporting the open enrollment process

Employers will see a happier, healthier, and more engaged workforce by providing the support employees need this open enrollment season, which is paramount to business success. A comprehensive benefit strategy will better position employers to help employees gain the knowledge that supports not only informed benefits decisions, but also drives loyalty. One in two employees (50%) say having a better understanding of their benefits—what’s offered and what’s covered—would make them more loyal.

Given the current economic landscape, employees may find this year’s open enrollment process is of greater significance than in years prior. In fact, 65% of today’s workforce say that open enrollment is more important this year given the current economic situation, underscoring one of many reasons why it’s critical that employers take the steps to empower employees to make informed open enrollment decisions this fall.

For more insights on open enrollment, visit

Research Methodology

Wave 2 of MetLife’s 21st Annual U.S. Employee Benefit Trends Study was conducted in July 2023 and was fielded by Rainmakers CSI – a global strategy, insight and planning consultancy. The survey included 2,650 interviews with full-time employees, aged 21 and over. All employees were based in the U.S. and were nationally representative of the U.S. Data in this release was collected as part of Wave 2 and was not reported in MetLife’s 21st Annual U.S. Employee Benefit Trends Study.