How Your Open Enrollment Insights Can Have You Seeing 20/20 Next Year
  • Tools & Best Practices

How Your Open Enrollment Insights Can Have You Seeing 20/20 Next Year

Open enrollment (OE) can be very taxing on benefit administrators. SHRM reports that 82 percent of HR leaders think open enrollment is a particularly stressful time for their teams.1 If you are a benefits professional, you likely don’t need a stat to back that up (although, I do wonder what those other 18 percent are doing…)

The end of the year marks the close of the open enrollment season with the end of that heightened stress providing an opportunity to celebrate. However, simply closing the chapter with completed enrollments is not enough to call it a success. What comes next is arguably just as important, especially as we embrace the shift in benefits enrollment and engagement from just two weeks to all 52 weeks. That next step is to dig into and analyze the plethora of data and information that comes directly from employees throughout the annual open enrollment period.  

One model of reflection is based on three simple questions: What? So what? Now what? This structure is used for everything from personal reflection to public speaking; however, I feel that it’s also a good fit for reflecting on open enrollment to identify the insights that can help shape a consumer-centric benefits strategy, communications and drive true employee engagement for the year to come. 

The What

The ‘what’ establishes context and is about the facts. It’s all of the information to provide you with the necessary background.

As a self-proclaimed data nerd, one of my most favorite activities is pulling together all of the open enrollment data to establish that background. I start by gathering reports such as enrollment counts and changes, along with ancillary metrics like consumer-directed healthcare account contributions, mobile logins and dependent verifications. Throughout open enrollment, we also solicit feedback directly from our workforce on their enrollment experience. So, in addition to the hard metrics, I also study our post-enrollment net promoter scores (NPS), survey comments, service center call metrics as well as the questions and comments that were submitted to our Benefits Navigators and sent directly to my team.   

Once all of the data has been consolidated, that’s when we can dive into what that data means.

So what?

Digging into the data, I am often reminded of a quote by Robert Filek, “strategy without process is little more than a wish list.” This resonates with me so much in the work that we do. Because if we don’t have the process established for analyzing all of this post-OE data, how will we set the framework for next year’s strategy? These 2019 OE insights are my ‘so what’ – my opportunity to further develop any ideas from the ‘what.’ They help me get the perspective I need to drive my 2020 benefits vision and help me share that vision with leadership.

As a best practice, I always establish my objectives and key results leading up to open enrollment events. These can include certain success metrics such as increasing HDHP migration, HSA contributions and voluntary benefits enrollment. I also include survey data points around the ease of navigating our benefits platform and our employees' awareness of their total rewards package. Not only are these insights important in gauging whether we hit our targets, but are also critical when preparing for the open enrollment debrief with our executive team.

Let’s discuss the executive team debrief in a little more depth because it’s a clear example of how you can illustrate the ‘so what.’ If you do not have a post-OE debrief meeting with your executive team, then the first step is to ask for one. Why? As benefits professionals, we invest a lot of time and hard work into our open enrollment communication strategies, benefit plan designs and renewals as well as the multitude of activities it takes to create a successful open enrollment. The post-OE presentation to the executive suite is our time to shine, demonstrating the shift from transaction support to strategic partners within the company.

From competing for top talent to mitigating healthcare inflation, the importance of offering innovative benefits and executing strategies is paramount. We cannot assume that leadership understands how increasing HDHP enrollments offers more protection in a self-funded plan arrangement, or how offering a variety of voluntary solutions has the added advantage of creating a more competitive benefits package while not costing the employer anything. So, use the numbers from your success metrics to kick off the meeting and grab their attention by showing them how those success metrics are leading to a positive financial impact for the organization and reinforcing your efforts to build better healthcare consumers. Then, once you have their attention, use the rest of the time to tell your benefits story and give them a sneak peek on how you're using your OE insights to create your strategic vision for next year.

Now what?

The ultimate goal is to have employees who are empowered to utilize their benefit offerings, because that is when the value of a benefits package truly becomes a reality.

So, now that we’ve prioritized deep diving into our data and understanding employees’ needs and wants before year-end, we can take the actions required to move forward – the ‘now what.’ We can plan comprehensive and targeted campaigns around benefits engagement and communications as well as offering additional solutions throughout the following year.

As part of my post-OE analysis, I look for any major shifts in enrollments by creating a side-by-side comparison for all of our benefit options. These shifts paired with the most frequently asked questions during OE help me create my upcoming communication campaigns and educational resources. For example, if the data showed an increase in HDHP enrollments, but we did not see an increase in contributions to HSAs, I would create and launch a campaign around the triple tax benefits of an HSA along with holding quick webinars on how to utilize and maximize consumer-driven health savings accounts. 

Another example is finding low participation in some of the great voluntary solutions. If that’s the case, I find it helpful to build communications campaigns around quarterly themes of health, wealth, lifestyle and core OE benefits. This might mean featuring voluntary financial wellness benefits during the first quarter of the year when consumers are trying to recover from holiday spending or launching a student loan refinancing benefit in May following graduation season. 

Finally, I also use our post-OE data to create a variety of ‘smart moments’ that can serve as personalized benefit engagement touch points throughout the year reminding my associates about the benefits they're enrolled in as well as the other voluntary solutions that are always available to them outside of open enrollment.

At the end of the day, benefits are meant to improve employees’ overall well-being across their health, wealth and lifestyle. Our employees need to be actively engaged with their benefits throughout the year – not just during a small open enrollment window. That’s why one of the most important things you can do as the year closes is to be sure you have all the information, resources and solutions needed to create your consumer-centric engagement strategy and kick off the new year on the right foot.


Interested in unlocking the data behind your health plan and benefits program? Find out what keys can help you analyze and evaluate program effectiveness for greater health care cost control in this on-demand webinar.