It just so happens that the end of the open enrollment period for many employers also falls during this season of reflection. Although this past year is unlike any other, it's still important to reflect on just how well things went for you and your employees this past year when it comes to open enrollment as well as the events leading up to and after the event.
We like to think about open enrollment within the context of four phases: Planning, Communication, Activation, Aftermath.
When you’re scoring your latest open enrollment, here are the items to consider across each of these phases, so you and your team can get an accurate read on how you did, as well as clear direction on how to make your next open enrollment your best yet.
Phase 1 – Planning for Open Enrollment
Let’s start at the beginning.
During the planning phase, you’re setting goals around participation rates, contribution amounts and considering budget priorities. Plus, you’re keeping an eye on regulatory changes to make sure your plans are compliant.
All of this is dependent on data. Did you have access to the right data when you needed it to make the best decisions for your benefits program?
Let’s say you want to move more employees to your high-deductible health plan (HDHP). First, you need to know who is enrolled in what plan. Or maybe you want to target your high-cost claimants with a wellness initiative. That starts with having accurate data on your employees' health status and the ability to identify specific cost drivers. Whatever your goal, it boils down to data.
Another aspect of planning is feasibility. How easy was it for you to offer a variety of voluntary benefits along with core health?
In this era of personalization, it’s necessary that employers offer a benefits package that’s tailored to their workforce. Plus, the likelihood that you’ll be able to recruit and retain the best and brightest of the workforce increases when your benefits offerings match employees’ needs.
Striking out on data, feasibility or both? Then, you’re already starting out on the wrong foot, making it that much harder to effectively execute on the rest of your open enrollment campaign.
See how insight-driven benefits administration can help you improve your score in the planning phase!
Phase 2 – Building Your Open Enrollment Communication Strategy
Next up is communication.
Considering that 80 percent of employees say that a well-communicated benefits package would make them less likely to leave their jobs,1 this is a strategically important area to execute well on.
Start with the basics. Did you have a communication plan? How easy was it to create that plan with the tools and resources you had available to you?
Then, consider the other layers that factor in, like how many communication channels you used to reach employees and how personalized those communications actually were based on your different employee segments. Be honest with yourself and your team. Did you use a variety of communications – emails, video, text messaging and print materials – or just a few of those, or maybe only one to two? Did they speak to different demographic segments, employee needs and situations, or were they mostly general messages?
Finally, what about reach? The person making the decisions about a family’s benefits plan may not actually be your employee, it might be their spouse. So, do you know if your communications actually made it into the hands of the household benefits decision maker?
All of these considerations add up to how high of a score you give your communications strategy.
Learn more about best practices for evaluating engagement during open enrollment in this tip sheet.
Phase 3 – Open Enrollment Activation
Now, it’s time to take a critical eye to how well you were able to execute on the actual open enrollment period.
Here, you're taking into consideration the ease-of-use for both you and your employees.
For you and your benefits team, were you able to monitor and measure enrollment engagement metrics in real-time?
For your employees, did they have the tools they needed for a smooth open enrollment? This touches on areas like decision support tools to help employees arrive at the best benefits decisions for their individual circumstances. It could also be mobile enrollment and the ability for employees to access their benefits on the go. If you have a diverse workforce, did they have the ability to review their benefits options in their preferred language?
Open enrollment likely represents one of the most difficult decisions employees have to make every year. It can be confusing, intimidating and downright overwhelming.
So, when giving yourself a score on open enrollment activation, think about the options your employees had to complete it efficiently. If the open enrollment period seemed like a mountain instead of a mole hill, then it’s time to consider what options you have to provide employees a better experience. And for your team – measurement tools that will make a difference.
Phase 4 – Open Enrollment Aftermath
As you well know, open enrollment is a year-round endeavor. While you may have completed the actual enrollment period, there’s no rest for the weary. The last phase is an important one, and how you rate here can give you a lot of insight into needed changes.
Pull out those goals you set in phase one. How does where you started compare to where you ended up? Were you able to achieve all of your goals, some of your goals or none?
During this phase, you’re also concerned about the benefits selections your employees made getting to your health insurance carriers and vendors. More importantly, having that information be accurately reflected. Was this process easy? Did you have visibility into this process? What about accuracy?
This rolls into how it affects your employees, and whether they receive their ID cards on time, have access to their benefits information throughout the year and whether that information is accurately reflected at all times.
There are many moving parts to your role and open enrollment. Setting the strategy for your open enrollment campaign is understandably the exciting part. While taking time to score the results of that strategy may be decidedly less exciting, it’s key to closing the loop and building an even stronger plan for next year.
Want to find out the score of your overall benefits strategy? Take this free open enrollment assessment to find out!
1 Aflac Workforces Report