Open enrollment planning needs to start soon

Open enrollment may be the last thing on the minds of HR teams across the U.S. right now with all of the challenges resulting from COVID-19, but it is a topic you will want to focus on soon especially if you anticipate changes to the benefits plans you will offer. And, this year, the changes you make may be significant due to the impact COVID-19 is sure to have on health insurance costs not to mention the physical, mental and financial health of your company and your employees. If you can, try to set aside time now to evaluate your current benefits packages and how your open enrollment went this past fall so you can begin thinking about changes you need to make.

Why evaluate how your most recent open enrollment period went? You need to fully understand how the open enrollment 2020 process went – for better or worse – to work toward a better enrollment cycle for the 2021 benefit year. And a big part of this analysis is examining the role your benefits broker played. Your broker should serve as a trusted advisor throughout the benefits renewal and open enrollment processes and how well they play this role can make the difference between a successful, or sub-par, open enrollment experience.

How to evaluate your last open enrollment?

If you established key performance indicators (KPIs) for employee engagement during open enrollment, start by looking at that data. If you did not set KPIs, here are a few data points to check out:

  • The number of employees who stayed enrolled in existing health insurance plans
  • The number of employees that changed benefit selections
  • The number of employees who waived coverage – both those who have waived coverage in the past and those waiving your health coverage for the first time

Compare these numbers to the goals you established going into open enrollment and the final numbers in each category for the past 2 – 3 years.

Understanding benefitsTaking a close look at how your latest open enrollment process went is critical to ensuring success in the next one.

After that, it will be important to take a look at employee engagement throughout the various phases of open enrollment. Some suggested KPIs to look at here include:

  • Meeting open enrollment dates: percentage of employees who enrolled immediately, percentage that enrolled at the midway point and percentage that waited until the end
  • Info session engagement:┬áif you offered enrollment educational sessions, how many employees attended them? How many questions were asked? If you were introducing new benefits, how many enrolled in those benefits?
  • One-on-one engagement metrics: how many employees met with an HR team member or your broker during the open enrollment period? How many took advantage of HR’s “office hours” to ask benefits-related questions?
  • Most effective “tracking” methods: for those employees you had to remind to complete open enrollment (even if they were waiving coverage), what methods were most successful (in-person requests, emails, phone calls, instant messaging)?

Collecting and analyzing this data will provide you a good picture of what worked well, what went wrong and what ended up somewhere in between.

Grading your benefits broker

Health insurance is extremely important to the livelihood of virtually every individual. It is also one of the most complex and controversial topics in our society. As an HR professional, it is hard to keep up with the constant legislative changes around healthcare and to know how to strike the right balance before affordability and quality when selecting benefits plans and services to offer employees. This is where your benefits broker should come into play, serving as an educational and trusted advisor to you and your employees.

When asked, most employers will tell you they are happy with their current broker, but when presented with a list of questions about the services their broker provides, they may realize there is a better option available. The Society for Human Resource Management identifies several key questions to consider when evaluating your benefits broker and their contribution to your open enrollment:

  • Were they representing one carrier or several?
  • How many organizations were they providing brokerage assistance to along with yours? Were there any conflicts of interest?
  • Was the broker directly available to employees who had coverage questions?
  • Was your broker helping you deal with compliance issues (ACA, HIPAA and so on)?
  • Did they work with you to find an experienced provider of benefits automation technology?

You also want to consider how innovative your broker is. For example, did they discuss newer benefit programs and services that have been growing in popularity, like tuition reimbursement plans, pet insurance, alternative retirement accounts, wellness plans and identity theft protection? If they didn’t at least suggest these possibilities to you, it may indicate they aren’t keeping up on the latest trends in the industry that could save your employees money or offer them protection in areas outside of the standard medical, dental and vision.

Moving forward for better enrollment in the future

Throughout 2020 and beyond, health insurance will be one of the defining issues of people’s personal and professional lives. We also know that comprehensive benefits as a whole are critically important for both attracting and retaining top talent for your organization. And despite the current levels of unemployment, our country will begin the road to recovery and hiring will resume.

Assessing your latest open enrollment period – and the contributions of your benefits broker to its success or failure – can help you determine what existing processes to keep and what adjustments will be necessary to avoid repeating any mistakes that were made. This evaluation can also point you toward new technologies or methods you should introduce to your enrollment procedures.

Stress-free Benefits Renewal