3 benefits technology lessons employers learned during Open Enrollment 2020

How are your clients and prospects feeling about their most recent open enrollment season?

While some employers experienced the usual challenges of open enrollment, 2020 had the added complication of administering open enrollment remotely, likely for the first time.

These frustrations are fresh in employers’ minds, making now the perfect time to start the conversation about tackling next open enrollment season. Offering them an efficient benefits technology solution, paired with strategic support for rollout and implementation, will help you keep your current customers happy and create an opening for winning new business. 

Let’s look at some of the biggest pain points from open enrollment 2020 and how you can deliver Better BenAdmin­­ to help alleviate that pain in 2021.

1. Communication is easily disrupted.

Last year many companies were adjusting to a remote environment and learning how to best communicate with distributed employees. Even if they’d been working remotely for several months, they were likely still unprepared for carrying out a virtual open enrollment. 

When employees and HR aren’t in the same place, it’s tough to communicate a sense of urgency. Communication is often a challenge for employers, and all of the moving parts of open enrollment—from educating employees on their available benefits to ensuring everyone completes their elections—proved to be an even bigger hurdle this year.

With all of the back-and-forth communication required during open enrollment, HR needs a way of centralizing that communication and tracking where employees are in the enrollment process.

Cloud-based benefits administration solutions allow employees to manage their own data and documentation, saving employers time while giving them direct access to communicate with their employees and visibility into the status of benefit elections in real time. This technology is especially important for companies who are planning to transition to a remote workforce for the foreseeable future. 

Employee self-service is a fundamental feature of any successful benefits administration solution in today’s world. But it doesn’t stop there. Employees must be able to access the technology in a manner that’s most convenient for them—whether that’s using their smartphone, tablet, laptop, or another device. Responsive design has outgrown its role as a nice-to-have feature, becoming one of the most crucial must-have components needed for the effective adoption of a benefits technology solution. 

You can secure your value as a broker now, when last year’s struggles are still fresh in your employers’ minds, by helping them strategize a workflow that ensures timely, trackable, consistent communication with employees while providing them with the tools to do so.

2. Carrier connectivity varies widely.

Communicating employee information to the carrier is one of the most important pieces of open enrollment, yet it’s one of the biggest gaps that HR departments fail to plan for. If a company recently switched to or added a new carrier, they’ll have plenty to say about how easy (or not) it was to share data. 

Sharing data with carriers requires establishing integrations with those carriers through the employers’ benefits technology platform. Each carrier has its own standards regarding the timeframe for building files, required data transfer formats, and processes for open enrollment versus ongoing enrollment. Many carriers have a cutoff date during the fourth quarter for when they will start new electronic data interchange (EDI) implementations, which many employers are not aware of (or their benefits technology provider fails to communicate to them). This means that if they don’t plan early enough ahead, they have to find an alternative way of getting the enrollment data to the carrier until the integration is tested and fully implemented.

When companies fail to plan for how they’ll meet each carrier’s specific standards, timelines, and processes, HR (or your account managers) must then dedicate more time to fix errors and manually aggregate and send data. If you sold the employer on greater cost-savings by switching carriers,  you’re likely already off to a bad start with the wasted time and effort.

3. Open Enrollment isn’t the time to test new technology.

You might wonder whether it’s too early to start talking to clients or prospects about how you can help them during their next open enrollment season. While rollout plans should be flexible—especially after what happened last year— the perfect time to debut a new system is not during open enrollment. That is the worst time to try a system rollout, and having to delay open enrollment or make last-minute decisions will ultimately result in greater inefficiency. 

One objection you might hear from clients is that it’s too early to think about a new benefits technology solution. They’d rather wait until mid-year and have it up and running for the next open enrollment period. Remind them that even the best solutions take time to learn. Dozens if not hundreds or thousands of employees rely on open enrollment to work smoothly. A failed implementation means a dissatisfied workforce and an overworked HR department.

Now is the time to help employers start thinking about how to improve the enrollment process for next year while the struggles of the previous open enrollment are still fresh in their minds. By starting early, employees and HR staff can learn the technology while helping new hires and employees who experience a life event. This also gives ample time to devise a communication strategy and ensure carrier connections are built and tested. When open enrollment begins, the team will feel confident about guiding employees through the process.

Help your clients prepare for their next open enrollment

The companies that saw the most success with a new carrier during the open enrollment 2020 season had both technology and strategy on their side.

Your clients rely on you to help them provide quality, competitive benefits to their employees. Part of that effort includes executing a successful open enrollment. Start your conversations about next open enrollment season early to help them prepare. 

Learn how partnering with ebm for benefits technology can help you attract, win, and retain business: https://getebm.com/brokers/.

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