June 1, 2021Open Enrollment
Avoid Open Enrollment Delays by Starting Interfaces Early
Making decisions about benefits, finalizing vendor information, and getting in the interfaces queue now will help ensure that your employees experience a smooth and accurate open enrollment process right down to receiving their benefits cards on time. “Many people put off doing their interfaces until the last minute and then find that there are wait times to get the interfaces built – backlogs are a real thing. When you start early, you jump the line,” explains Brian Waldrop, MSCIS and Technical Consultant with Wise Consulting.
Why Should I Begin Open Enrollment Preparation Months In Advance?
Planning ahead saves you time, resources and helps avoid costly delays and mistakes. Those new to open enrollment may not realize the many weeks it can take to have benefits interfaces built due to unavoidable queues. Our open enrollment (OE) specialists at Wise guide many clients in achieving smooth and successful OE processes, and their number one tip is: get started early. Below, Brian and fellow Wise consultants Kayla Potter, CPP and Kristy Karns Argo, HRIP discuss why open enrollment and integrations need to be started as early as possible.
“Q4 is always busy for everyone; it can be helpful to get open enrollment done beforehand,” says Brian regarding the choice to get a head start, “if you make decisions about your open enrollment program early, it will help to relieve stress later.”
Kayla adds, “It is super helpful to get the necessary tasks out of the way beforehand, because open enrollment can go on seamlessly at the end of the year without you having to focus on it.”
The team at Wise advises doubling the amount of time you have budgeted for preparing for open enrollment. By expanding the time estimate, you’re able to build a cushion for yourself and your team and avoid being at the mercy of unavoidable wait times for critical pieces of OE.
Can Waiting Until Q4 Cause Unforeseen Delays?
The short answer is, yes it can. While it is no secret that getting a jump on OE will help relieve anxieties, it also takes into consideration the amount of time needed to build an interface. For the vendors who supply them for so many customers (many of whom delay making the requests and then panic when they see the wait times), the backlog of projects is nearly impossible to avoid. However, these backlogs are far more extreme during busier times of the year.
Brian warns that Q4 is especially prone to a long queue of projects, as he has witnessed first-hand working with clients. “I’ve seen backlogs of 16 or 18 weeks. Backlogs are inevitable, but it is important to consider the point where a backlog becomes a major interference. At that point in the year, you are at the mercy of the queue.”
Backlogs can absolutely lead to missing important deadlines. If it is apparent that you are going to miss a deadline, you could be faced with reverting to a manual process. Manual processes are less efficient and do not ensure that your interface will be viable before your deadline or that you will submit important documentation to your vendors in time. Ultimately, it pays to get your requests in early so you do not end up stuck in the back of the line waiting for approval.
Kristy points out that while it is easier said than done, “What people need to do is dedicate some resources to starting this process a lot earlier than they think they need to.” Kayla continues, “Yes, and if you don’t have the resources, please reach out to us for support sooner rather than later so we can understand your whole benefits plan and can find the pitfalls before it gets to the employees, when it’s all of a sudden ‘we need you to test this out!’ a week before OE begins. If we can find the errors before it becomes an issue it saves having to do things manually to ensure accuracy.”
Who Benefits From Starting Early?
It is no secret that your human resources department, payroll team, leadership team and employees all benefit from a head start on year-end initiatives. Vendors benefit from a cushion, as well.
“It’s important to have your files ready to send to your vendors early,” says Kristy. “For example, consider the benefits card that you have in your wallet. To have those ready to be handed out in January, most vendors need medical files in the beginning of November. Those cards can only appear ‘magically’ if you have your interface set up ahead of time.”
“Regardless of when you start the OE project, you have your real job you are trying to accomplish at the same time,” says Brian. “So, if you have ten tasks to complete to get this project done, and if you start early, we can get those ten tasks done over time and better balance your work life than if you start late and you are then working late nights and weekends because it has to be done and you have to complete your real job as well. Regular work doesn’t stop because you have an OE project.”
Not only will starting to set up your open enrollment for success now help lighten the year-end workload, but it will help to ensure the quality and accuracy of the open enrollment process. If given ample time, the consultants at Wise are able to test out your interface and find errors long before your employees do.
What If I Don’t Know Where to Start?
HCM system integrations and open enrollment duties can be overwhelming when they add up, especially in a year that encompasses part of the pandemic. With many professionals facing career changes following the pandemic, a shift back into the physical workplace, or changing benefits packages, it may be an extra busy year for your human resources department. Recruiting a team of consultants can help make the process go more smoothly.
“Reaching out to Wise this year is worth the investment. It will allow you to learn from Wise so that next year, whether you choose to use Wise or not, you will have a blueprint for how and when to do it,” says Kristy.
Wise Consulting is able to provide valuable, experienced support throughout the open enrollment process. As specialists, the OE consultants at Wise can move things along at a faster pace because they understand the systems and know exactly what information vendors need. They can also speak the business language and the technical language, so you do not have to be the middleman working directly with vendors. In addition, Wise consultants have lasting relationships with many vendors and are able to rely on those partnerships to benefit their clients.
Achieve OE & Payroll Confidence With Wise Consulting
By tapping into the knowledge and experience of Wise Consulting, you are able to have a less stressful, more accurate and seamless open enrollment process. To learn more about the OE process and how to start now, give us a ring at 800-654-4550 or shoot us a line at HCMhelp@wiseconsulting.com.
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