Seven Practical Tips For A Less Stressful, More Successful Open Enrollment

For many people, October signals the end of summer, the heart of football season and the return of favorite TV shows. But HR and benefits professionals have one event on their minds: open enrollment. Here, bswift’s Allison Malito and Jill Steinberg offer seven tactical tips based on their experience with real clients, to help make your open-enrollment process a smoother, more successful one.

1. Encourage early enrollment and avoid last-minute traffic jams 1. Encourage early enrollment and avoid last-minute traffic jams

Once you’ve completed system testing, you’ll want to get your employees onto the portal to elect their benefits as early as possible. The more people who are inspired to complete their enrollment at the beginning of the open enrollment period, the less of a mountain of enrollments there will be for your system and the service center to handle on that last day. If at all feasible, consider sweetening the early-enrollment pot. For example, you could automatically enter everyone who enrolls during the first week into a raffle for a coveted item, like an Apple iPad.

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2. Make it easy for employees to log into the system 2. Make it easy for employees to log into the system

Remember that employees may not have accessed the benefits portal since last year’s open enrollment. As that access involves logging in with their usernames and passwords, you can save yourself some extra work dealing with lost or forgotten login credentials by giving employees the option to reset their passwords well before open enrollment. Better yet, think about setting up Single Sign On from your company’s intranet, so employees don’t even have to deal with usernames and passwords.

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3. Be prepared to handle end-of-year life events 3. Be prepared to handle end-of-year life events

Births, marriages and other benefits-altering events don’t wait for January 1. These “dual-year enrollment” life events can crop up in November and December, right in the midst of open enrollment or shortly afterward, and can be challenging to process. For example, employees who get married or have a child during this time will need to update their benefits elections to ensure that their new family members are covered for both plan years. Take the time to explain the process to your employees and work closely with your carriers on prompt handling of dual-year events.

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4. Give carriers plenty of time to process your EDI files 4. Give carriers plenty of time to process your EDI files

All of the hard work that you put into getting employees to elect benefits as early as possible will come to nothing if you don’t transmit their data to the carriers on time—and, in turn, if employees don’t get their ID cards by January 1. For this reason, it’s advisable to end the open enrollment period at the beginning of December. The challenge is that all of this hinges on how early you were able to get your hands on carrier rates and plan rules, and then enter all that into the system. Don’t forget to coordinate and confirm that ID cards are sent to employees; otherwise, come January 1, you’ll be fielding phone call after phone call.

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5. Solicit feedback both during and after open enrollment 5. Solicit feedback both during and after open enrollment

During the open enrollment process, you’ll want to gather input from employees on how things are going. The same is true after the process is completed. Be sure to send out a post-enrollment survey, so you can figure out what you need to focus on for next year’s open enrollment. This is your opportunity to ask for feedback about various aspects of the process, such as the format and frequency of your communications and specific things you can do to improve the experience for employees.

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6. Reduce stress by giving your employees and yourself a break 6. Reduce stress by giving your employees and yourself a break

Don’t forget to do what you encourage your employees to do: engage in activities that boost health and wellness. In the midst of open enrollment season, it may seem unrealistic to carve out time to relax and decompress. But do what you can to get in some exercise, nutritious meals and maybe even a visit to the local spa! Taking care of yourself will help you stay present for your employees and keep you energized during what can prove to be a very successful open enrollment period.

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7. Test and tune the system in advance through pilot groups 7. Test and tune the system in advance through pilot groups

The Cheesecake Factory, a bswift client, serves as an excellent example of the positive outcome of doing thorough pre-launch testing. To ensure a successful rollout of their online enrollment platform (previously, a paper-based process), the company launched a pilot group well in advance, offering early open enrollment to a subset (approximately 3,000) of their huge employee population. There’s no such thing as too much testing. And there’s a lot to test. You’ll want to test users in each benefits class, in an effort to discover any potential issues before an employee finds them. Of course, you’ll need to test your EDI files well before the due date (December 2 this year)—by sending carriers test files containing real data. You should test payroll files as well, to make sure that deductions and surcharges are properly handled for each employee.

[Image: Fotolia]

For many people, October signals the end of summer, the heart of football season and the return of favorite TV shows. But HR and benefits professionals have one event on their minds: open enrollment. Here, bswift’s Allison Malito and Jill Steinberg offer seven tactical tips based on their experience with real clients, to help make your open-enrollment process a smoother, more successful one.

 

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