Evaluating open enrollment while it’s happening: A checklist

The latest open enrollment period for 2021 employee benefits is right around the corner. Right now, you should have a solid plan in place for the process, and after it’s all over, you’ll be able to take a close look at how well it went.

But what about evaluating the process while it’s actually happening? If you take the pulse of your open enrollment procedures while they’re ongoing — from the employee experience to the performance of your benefits broker — you’ll gain immediate insight into your strengths and weaknesses. 

Take a look at the three essential areas that make it on our open enrollment checklist for HR and see what you should be examining most closely during this time:

health insurance form on desk with pen and stethoscope atop itLooking at open enrollment while it’s actually happening gives you more immediate insights and better perspective on the overall process.

Evaluating employee engagement

The whole point of offering insurance and other benefits to employees is to look out for their well-being. While you hope they are as engaged as possible during the process, you won’t be able to fully measure employee participation in your organization’s benefits program until open enrollment is completed. But there are ways to get a meaningful sense of how engaged your workforce is with the essential steps of enrollment while you’re in the thick of it. 

As BenefitsPRO pointed out, many organizations are handling open enrollment virtually this season due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. But you can still keep track of engagement: During informational sessions regarding benefits, take note of how many employees ask questions, what they’re asking (and not asking) and whether they are satisfied with the answers. While examining these factors isn’t an exact science, it can be a good foundation for the more detailed evaluation you’ll do later.

Measuring benefit popularity

There are a lot more benefit options available today than in years past. Employees aren’t just looking for standard health insurance offerings; they may also be interested in alternatives like flexible spending accounts, individual coverage health reimbursement arrangements (especially the latter, according to the Department of Health and Human Services) and non-insured benefits programs like pharmacy savings cards, pet insurance and alternative medicine. 

If you decide to offer these or other products during open enrollment, it will be helpful to gauge employee interest in them during the process. You’ll want to start tracking sign-ups for these new offerings, as well as looking at their popularity compared to traditional health plans and other benefits. This will help you better determine what you should potentially offer in the years to come. 

Communicating with (and grading) your broker

Your broker should be in touch with you — and your employees — more frequently during open enrollment than at any other time of the year. That’s arguably the easiest criteria you can grade them on out of the list suggested by the Society for Human Resource Management: How accessible are they? Are they just as willing to talk to individual staff who have questions about plan features or conditions as they are to you and others in HR? Do they have any conflicts of interest that draw their attention away from your organization?

You’ll also want to examine other attributes of your broker’s performance as you work with them: Are they helping you navigate ACA compliance issues (and adequately preparing you for the possibility of that law’s repeal)? Are they helping you find the best technology solutions to keep open enrollment – and other areas of your busines – running smoothly? If the process is difficult this time around, you may want to consider a new partnership for next year’s open enrollment — ideally with a vendor that offers both broker services and HCM technology.