HR Technology | 5 Key Strategies for a Successful Open Enrollment

October 5, 2021

By: Shannon Klick


Each year, a lot of strategy and planning has to come together to make your benefit open enrollment a success. You identify the right mix of benefit options with the right insurance companies, the best way to communicate your benefits, how to enroll your employees in the plans, and ultimately how to get those changes back to the insurance companies and to payroll.   

In this article we share our key strategies for a successful open enrollment keeping all of these things in mind. 

TIP #1: START EARLY WITH TECHNOLOGY

The right technology can make the difference between an efficient, productive open enrollment and potential train wreck. And the earlier you figure this part out, the better.

If you have a benefit administration solution, it is time for a refresh.  Ensure your benefit plans are communicated in a way that make sense to your employees, replace forms, and send out messages to warn employees that it is coming. Evaluate any vendor software enhancements, and test the solution again before you release it to employees.

If you currently don’t have a benefit administration technology solution, consider this a sign that you should look into it further. In the past couple years, remote work has become much more prevalent, organizations have been doing more with less staff, and enrollment technology has been adopted by organizations of all sizes as a way to move away from paper processes, reduce administrative complexity, and enhance benefit education.   

TIP #2:  ENGAGE A CONSULTANT 

Marsh McLennan Agency has technology consultants to help you choose the right solution that can handle your specific wish list, but also to make sure your benefits and eligibility complexities are accounted for in the options you should consider. Once you select a vendor, the consultants can assist with the implementation and testing process to ensure that the solution is set up correctly. Coordinating your technology with the selection of benefits carriers and your eligibility rules can save you an enormous amount of time in the long run.  

The first key step in the technology consulting process is to perform a needs analysis. The consultant asks the right questions to identify the functionality your organization needs, as well as set expectations on your vision compared to your budget.  Then, the consultant provides vendor recommendations based on those factors, and guides your organization through the process of evaluating those solutions. 

TIP #3:  CONSIDER A VOLUNTARY BENEFIT STRATEGY WITH EMPLOYEE SERVICE SUPPORT

Consider a strategy that includes adding voluntary benefits and service support directly to your employees. Voluntary benefits are a cost effective and powerful way to provide employees more choice and for their unique situation.  Adding service support to the mix allows the vendor to be the front line for your employees to explain the benefits and also to help them log in, understand the benefit options, and get enrolled in a timely manner. This additional layer in your benefit strategy takes that workload off of HR, and also provides a neutral third party to share messaging, audit the data, and handle administrative tasks. One of the best parts of the voluntary benefits + technology + employee support strategy is that with the right mix of vendors, it can buy down the cost of the solution overall. This is a key area where Marsh McLennan Agency can assist to pull the whole package together. 

TIP #4:  TEST YOUR TECHNOLOGY SOLUTION

Whether you already have a system in place or you’re making an initial investment, make sure you allow enough time before open enrollment to thoroughly test your technology to ensure that everything you plan for it to do will be manageable in the coming year. Your organization owns the data and are responsible for managing it. For example, go through the solution for each employee class and tier to make sure that the messaging, rates, forms, and details all say what you expect. Vendors perform testing as well, but they aren’t seeing it from your eyes, knowing your employees. Once the enrollment solution goes live, and insurance company connections are set up, review and audit billing statements as the final step to your testing process. Testing is a key step in making sure the correct payroll deductions are entered for employees. 

TIP #5:  START TALKING ABOUT THIS NOW

Make sure your Marsh McLennan Agency team knows your timeline and vision so they can bring in the right resources and help you plan accordingly. Have a checklist of items you want to cover, including costs, cost containment strategies, integrating wellness into your health care plan, and educating employees. Our goal is to create exactly the right plan for your organization to help make open enrollment – and beyond – as successful as possible.

Make sure all internal stakeholders are fully aware of the open enrollment timeline and agree on everyone’s responsibilities. Plan and communicate your vision clearly to your stakeholders.  It’s no secret that this phase of the process can take an inordinate amount of time. So, getting internal buy-in long before open enrollment begins is essential.

You’re now communicating with four to five unique generations in your employee population and each one accesses and consumes information in different ways. The differences in work behaviors and benefits preferences have never been greater – not only regarding how generations communicate, but where they are when they need to be reached. Those issues often create a situation where meetings or even phone calls are not always the most efficient, effective ways to get in touch. You need to adapt your communications strategies to your various groups; your broker should be able to help you create an effective plan.

We hope these tips help guide your internal conversations on this topic this summer.   Our team is ready to help.