It seems a little late in the winter to still be talking about the previous year. But don't tell that to Employee Benefit News (EBN) which recently published an intriguing look at 2018's open enrollment, and how the we maybe shouldn't be looking at it as a specific time period, rather than a year-round cycle of phases and milestones.
"But isn't open enrollment just a bunch of people signing up for benefits? What's the big deal?" As it turns out, more than you'd think. Based on the most recent open enrollment "season" EBN experts found a few items of interest to anyone involved with employee benefits. Let's take a look.
According to author Peter Marcia, open enrollment is actually a year-round season (explained using a light football metaphor) that starts with a planning "pre-game" that involves pricing, comparing and selecting benefit plans.
This usually occurs no later than early Q2, because of the next "pre-game" phase, when HR teams need to communicate changes and prices to employees.
Once most companies reach Q3, the open enrollment game actually begins, giving employees a fairly short window to make benefit elections that closest fit their needs. In the scheme of 52 weeks, having less than a month to determine your entire upcoming year seems a little limiting. But if the pre-game portions go well, employees should be well-prepared to make these choices ahead of time.
At this point, it's safe to assume the game is over until next year. But in reality, the beginning of a new plan year is when the hardest work happens -- managing employee reactions, settling some confusion, and -- the highlight of the article -- garnering data from the enrollment period to see how to better prepare for the following year's "pre-game."
What kinds of data? For starters, how did employees choose to enroll (e.g. online, with a rep, through a mobile app, etc.)? And how long did it take them to make a decision? It might not seem important, but if there was more indecision and fewer prompt enrollments, that can help HR teams make changes for the following season.
Perhaps most importantly, this data can inform teams about the benefit plans they chose. For example, did one option stand above the rest? Were supplementary benefits more popular? Were employees more educated and confident trying new benefits (like FSAs, for example)?
The article goes into more depth about each step, and was an interesting piece, even for those not involved in administering benefits. If for no other reason than to shed some light onto just how much work is involved in making annual benefits plans possible for you.
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