Evaluating Employee Benefits Open Enrollment
  • Benefits Strategy

4 Questions to Ask Yourself When Evaluating Open Enrollment

Outside of benefits, there’s a misconception that open enrollment lasts just two weeks out of the year (i.e. when employees are making benefit elections). However, as HR and benefit professionals, you know that open enrollment actually encompasses a range of activities throughout the entire year.

You're also asked to evaluate the success of those activities. With the right metrics, you could be in a position to not only report on the hard work you’ve done over the past year, but also strengthen your plan for the upcoming year and advocate for new technology, tools and resources.

As you reflect on your most recent open enrollment, here are four key questions to ask yourself to evaluate your success. 

1. Could I easily add a variety of voluntary benefit options in addition to core health plans?

Employee job satisfaction rises 6% when voluntary benefits are offered and 15% when enrolled in voluntary benefits.*    

With unemployment at a low point and wages remaining relatively flat, voluntary benefits provide employers a valuable opportunity to differentiate themselves, drive loyalty and offer a richer set of benefits. It sounds perfect, but for many, it’s not that easy.

Employers may want to add new voluntary benefit options to their mix, but have to contend with:

  • Determining the right mix of products. There’s a lot involved in selecting the right voluntary products for your workforce as well as selecting the right product supplier.
  • Time and bandwidth. Even if you have determined the right solutions, it takes time and bandwidth to get them implemented.
  • Making sure employees understand the options and value. Finally, once you have all of the products in place, you have to help your employees understand the options available to them and take advantage of them. Additionally, many have minimum requirements, leading to more pressure for you to drive employee understanding and adoption. 

In today’s competitive job market, voluntary benefits aren’t a nice to have, they are a must have. So, if you’re asking yourself this evaluation question and finding that you’re having to contend with some or all of those issues, that’s a red flag. Ultimately, this evaluation question is intended to help you determine the next steps to delivering on employee expectations without adding administrative burden.

2. Was creating a benefit communication strategy easy with available tools and resources?

30% of employees say they need more information surrounding their benefits.*

Employees are consumers, and similarly to how they make purchase decisions around items for their home or personal life, they are making purchase decisions around the benefits that protect their overall well-being. The information they seek to make that purchase decision can vary immensely, but they are looking to their employer for help.

This is why a strong communications strategy is essential, and why this question is essential to dive deeper into as you evaluate your communication plan for the future. Here are a few additional considerations around communication:

  • Does my benefits technology provide me the ability to target messages by demographic segments?
  • Was I able to customize my benefits portal throughout the year depending on the benefits I wanted to highlight or the message I wanted to share?  
  • How many tools did I have available to communicate (i.e. email, video, text message, print, etc.)?

Communications can make or break all of the hard work you’ve put into a designing a strong benefits strategy. If you find in your evaluation that this part of the process wasn’t up to par, it’s time to start thinking about what’s needed break the barriers to execute a more strategic communication plan.

3. Was I able to accurately measure enrollment engagement metrics?

Benefits account for 31.7% of total compensation costs, on average.**

With benefits comprising a significant expense within the organization, having insight into enrollment engagement metrics is imperative. This insight goes beyond just being able to see who is enrolled in what plan, though. Being able to accurately measure enrollment engagement metrics extends to being able to:

  • Validate that the plan design decisions you made are working and health plans are optimized
  • Show that the cost control programs you invest in are changing member behaviors
  • Identify that your partners that assist with plan management are effectively containing costs

Increasingly, the C-suite is interested in how benefits are being managed across organizations, especially as health care costs are expected to continue to increase – six percent in 2019.*** The right insights can help you position benefits as a key driver of employee engagement, retention and attraction, while also showing that they are optimized for your workforce.

Consider this evaluation metric as one to help you determine if you have access to all of the right insights.

4. Was it easy to get accurate enrollment information to my carriers and vendors?

After all is said and done, if you aren’t able to easily transfer enrollment information to carriers and vendors, then your hard work could be derailed fast, resulting in a lot more headaches than are necessary to get it corrected.

Here are some deeper dive questions to ask yourself as part of the data exchange process:

  • Was it time consuming for me to get information to carriers and vendors once the open enrollment election period ended?
  • Did I have visibility into the data and its accuracy throughout the entire process?
  • Did my employees receive their ID cards on time?
  • Did my employees have the correct deductions taken for their new benefits?

This evaluation metric can help you identify how well you and your partners and vendors work together to achieve a high level of data accuracy – a vital component in today’s data-driven era.

Want more open enrollment evaluation metrics? Access the Open Enrollment Scorecard, a free online assessment to easily evaluate all areas of open enrollment – from planning to communication, execution and the aftermath.

*Aflac WorkForces Report

** USBLS

***Medical cost trend: Behind the numbers 2019, PwC’s Health Research Institute