May 11, 2022 Open Enrollment

Are Benefits Changing? Tips for Achieving Open Enrollment Success

Job seekers and current employees alike are always looking for a strong benefits offering, so it is possible to improve recruitment and employee satisfaction by making improvements on this front. In today’s “Great Reshuffle’ marketplace, it’s no wonder so many companies are working to beef up benefits. But the changes being made have a direct impact on preparation for and execution of the open enrollment process. We spoke with one of our benefits experts, Wise Consultant Rich Feliccia, to get tips about what might help ensure a successful open enrollment.

Think Big Picture but Don’t Forget the Details:

Whether you are new to benefits and open enrollment or you’ve done it before, this year might feel different based on how much the benefits are changing at your organization. Feliccia suggests getting fully oriented before digging into tasks. “The main things to keep in mind are: know your plans, know your organization in terms of deduction groups, know what information you want to relay to employees before, during and after, configure your system properly and test it,” says Feliccia.  

While you are thinking big picture considering timeline, getting carrier feeds built, and scoping reporting needs, Feliccia says you can’t afford to forget about details. “I would say from a configuration standpoint, the thing we have the most control over is we want to make it look as professional as possible. We don’t want incorrect or outdated information out there, we don’t want error messages, and even when it comes to the visuals with fonts and sizing we want to have the goal of instilling confidence in employees. If open enrollment looks like a mess, it makes it seem as though the higher-ups don’t know what they are doing.” He points out that when working within a robust HRIS, the product system capability is there but it’s up to the human being to have the carrier feeds ready, input the information, communicate deadlines and do it all on time–accurately–to make it successful.

Assessing Need to get the Timeline Right:

Timing gets a little tricky because it can depend on how much your benefits plans are changing and which HCM software you are using. Generally, Feliccia (and all of our OE experts) recommend getting started earlier than it might seem you need to. “From a timeline perspective, you really want to start thinking about open enrollment at least 3 months prior to actually pushing it out to employees. Of course, many clients are not going to know new plan information and new rates until they start shopping around the providers. That is fine. We are able to build the core open enrollment module three months out and then as the information comes in, we can update it for you.”

With some HCM software, changes to the plan or vendor may require a new or updated file feed. This means you log a ticket and wait in a queue for support. The overall file feed process (from request to delivery) can take up to 8-10 months. In many instances, if you miss the window to get in the queue, you can reach out to specialist consultants–such as Rich Feliccia–to get the file feed built in a much shorter amount of time. For changes to an existing file, some software vendors require getting in the queue and going through them for that file feed. 

If you are anticipating a change in vendors, you can pretty much guarantee that you are not going to have an automated file feed,” explains Feliccia. “During my kick-off calls, I always ask upfront if a client anticipates any carrier changes. If they say yes, then we go down that route. That either requires a service request–and long wait in the queue–to the HCM software vendor or an additional contract if they would like for us at Wise to build it out much faster. If Wise does it, we would build it out, test it, and it would be good to go.”

Know Your Plans and Develop Accurate Messaging:

Feliccia has been in the benefits admin arena a long time and understands how much HR professionals are juggling and the learning curve if they are brand new to the field. But he stresses that they need to have a strong knowledge of the benefits that they offer. “I have had clients that don’t know what a deduction group is, or they don’t know which plans are being offered to employees based in California, Pennsylvania or New York, when really they need to know who is eligible for what,” he says. “Another big thing is the messaging. Often, people don’t know what to write or the best way to present the information. I would encourage them to think about what information they want to relay and start working on it at the beginning of the process so they don’t get writer’s block when it’s time to put it out there. I have developed example messaging that I can send clients that they can personalize.”

Remember to Test Like You Mean It:

“Another major thing you need to do and cannot disregard is testing,” says Feliccia. “So, open enrollment modules within HCM systems do have a test mode and you cannot mess anything up in the system when you are in test mode. There is no reason not to test thoroughly. Basically, when you enact a test enrollment you are pretending you are the employee going through their actual open enrollment selecting your medical, dental, vision, etc. As long as everything is calculating correctly, and everything is visible that should be and there are no system errors, that is considered success.” 

Feliccia is adamant that this step should not be taken lightly. “Aside from set up, testing is probably the most critical part of the whole process. The clients who do spend a lot of time testing are far and away the most successful. They should be testing every scenario. I always tell clients that they should be going in and trying to break the system. Try to account for every type of election scenario, every type of benefit amount. Test each age group if you have age-graded rates. Basically, if there are errors with set up, whether it be with set up of open enrollment or set up with certain benefit plans, those will all present themselves in testing if you test properly.”

The final note from Feliccia? Don’t forget reporting. “Reporting is part of the process. Usually, there is basic reporting available around employee selections, and if you need custom reports it is important to understand what the requirements are and anticipate how you will extract that information.” 

Key Items Open Enrollment Checklist:

To help you keep your HCM system running optimally and plan your open enrollment process timeline, our benefits administration experts put together a brief but informative checklist. Keeping these important steps and choices top of mind can assist your quest for open enrollment success (this is not intended to be a full list of all steps required for open enrollment):

  • Update rates/payroll deductions
  • Understand guarantee issue (GI) rules
  • Know the limits on reimbursement plans
  • Understand election dependencies
  • Configure Active or Passive enrollment
  • Develop & communicate enrollment content
  • Update carrier feeds and know deadlines
  • Understand your reporting requirements
  • Test, test and test again

Reach Out for Open Enrollment Help

 All of our Wise benefits administration experts share a commitment to helping clients not only achieve open enrollment success, but also learn best practices and short-cut tips along the way. Perhaps that is why so many of our benefits clients come back to Wise year after year, placing trust in our experienced consultant team to help them get the job done right.

If you have questions about open enrollment or benefits administration, contact a Wise consultant at 800-654-4550 or HCMHelp@WiseConsulting.com.

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