5 Open Enrollment Tips from the Ben Admin’s Best Friend

The majority of your time is spent planning for the annual open enrollment period, but how do you avoid the hesitation and confusion your employees have when it comes time to actually enroll?

Benefitfocus Product Manager Cindi Van Meir (aka the benefits administrator’s best friend) recently hosted a webinar where she shared five ways to help ensure a positive, stress-free enrollment experience for you and your employees. Here are some additional hot-button questions she answered for the audience along the way:

Q1: You mentioned identifying plan and process improvements based on the previous year’s claims data. If you are utilizing a broker or TPA, how far in advance would you expect to receive that information so you can make decisions about plan changes?

A1: This really depends on how often the third party is able to get the data and the speed with which they can analyze the information to make recommendations. If this is done manually, it can take quite a while. And if the information isn’t specific to your population, it may not provide the insight you need to make the best decision. We recommend a “people + technology” approach, where technology can automate receipt of claims data from your carrier on a monthly basis and provide the analytics you and your consultant need. This way your consultant or broker can spend time on the most valuable part of the conversation - helping you decide what needs to change.

Q2: What type of information can help employees make better decisions during Open Enrollment? 

A2: Utilization data from the previous year helps employees see what kind of year they have had related to their plan usage and impacts to their finances. Comparing that information against the upcoming year’s plan design helps employees estimate what their out of pocket costs could be for the options available to them. This is especially useful if the employee has to choose between either their employer’s plan or their spouse’s employer’s plan. Employees often have to figure out expense for both plans and then determine which one works best for them.

Q3: How can employees account for life event changes when selecting a plan? For example, if they're planning a pregnancy.

A3: Life events are significant changes in a person’s life and depending on the scenario could be filled with moment of grief and sadness or joy and celebration. In either scenario, life happens. Selecting the right benefits for these moments is important but probably an afterthought compared to the actual ‘life’ part of a life event. Employees need decision support tools that understand what these moments mean to their benefits plan in terms of coverage and financial impacts. 

Communication is also key in these moments and often most valuable to reduce any stress the employee could be feeling during this time. Being able to send a quick email or helpful text message that serves as a reminder that the employee is able to enroll in dependent life when they have a baby or to provide details about FMLA would go a long way to help an employee feel valued.

Q4: Do you have any tips or advice to ensure employees complete their enrollment selections within the open enrollment period?  

A4: It seems like companies are always on the hunt for new and creative ways to drive home the call to action. Here are few really helpful ideas we see our customers using each year:

  • Track your status – Always know how close you are to achieving your goal. How many people have started but didn’t complete enrollment? Who has completed their benefit elections and who hasn’t even logged in? Having this type of visibility during open enrollment can help you evaluate the progress you’re making.
  • Don’t create email fatigue - A critical part of communication is getting the right message to the right person at the right time. With communication tools that help you filter employees based on enrollment progress, you can send notifications only to those that need to take action instead of blasting all of your employees.
  • Make open enrollment fun and rewarding – Another idea we see customers using is entering employees into a drawing for gift cards and other prizes when they enroll within a certain timeframe.. The trick is to be strategic about the timeframe you select for the incentive so it keeps employees engaged over the entire enrollment period. For example, hold a daily drawing for a ‘free lunch’ from a pool of associates that complete their open enrollment that day. Then, enter those winners into a drawing for a grand prize.
Q5: Can you explain how to adapt communication best practices for new hire enrollment?

A5: Yes, all of the steps are just as important for the new hire or initial enrollment experience. A new employee has a lot more to learn about you and your company, and interaction with the HR department is often a new candidate’s first impression of a company. It’s important to make it a lasting one so the employee feels like you are paying attention, answering questions, understanding their needs on a personal level and looking out for them as they begin what could potentially be their lifetime employment relationship with you.

Watch the full webinar on-demand to learn more tips & tricks that can help you ensure a successful open enrollment.

Going to HR Tech this year? Hear more from Cindi and the Benefitfocus team at Booth #2501 where you can see a live demonstration of the latest technology built to simplify OE!