Bad Open Enrollment Experience? Here’s What You Need

Another year, another open enrollment rollout nightmare…

This is the sentiment a lot of HR teams harbor towards open enrollment season. Perhaps new technology didn’t pan out to be the life savior HR needed it to be, or teams understated how crucial it is to have an effective strategy in place. Now HR wonders if there’s any hope of a smooth-sailing open enrollment.

There is hope for a better open enrollment experience. And it starts by realizing your benefits administration technology is likely not working for you. Rather, you are working for it. With the right benefits administration technology (and strategy) in place, OE can finally be rolled out without a hitch.

Here’s how to ensure a smooth OE rollout:

Update processes

Many HR professionals dread open enrollment because their processes are outdated. They’re likely using technology that doesn’t have the capabilities to streamline administrative tasks. There’s also a lot of technology that only does the basics like new hire and enrollment, failing to meet all the needs of HR teams.

Technology should be able to integrate with other HR systems of record. Take payroll for example – if technology doesn’t communicate with payroll, HR has to enter data into both the payroll and BenAdmin systems every time there is an enrollment change. Technology that doesn’t communicate with other systems is causing more work for already busy HR teams.

In a day-in-age where benefits packages have expanded to offer a variety of voluntary benefits, technology needs to be able to handle the complexities and plan designs of those benefits as well.

Plan for carrier connectivity

Many HR teams fail to plan how they’re going to communicate enrollment data to their carriers. Often times, organizations will change carriers without realizing that each carrier has their own standards regarding the timeframe for building files, required data transfer formats, and processes for open enrollment.

Many carriers have a fourth-quarter cutoff date for starting new Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) implementations that employers are often unaware of. This usually happens because an employer’s benefits technology provider never communicates this timeline to them. Without proper planning, HR teams must find alternative ways to send enrollment data until integration is tested and implemented. Alternate methods of sending data is not considered best practice because they’re time-consuming and compromise the security of the data.

Brokers – if you had a client switch to a new carrier, you’d be off to a bad start without a communication plan. Wasted time outweighs any cost-savings you’d hope for your client to benefit from.

Technology needs to be tested before open enrollment

HR teams and brokers alike may think that post-OE is too early to think about technology. The truth is, this is the best time to start the technology conversation. Waiting until OE season to test new technology may result in a delayed OE rollout and greater inefficiency.

Waiting until mid-year to get a new system up and running is not recommended either. Even best-of-breed technology takes time to learn. If the system isn’t running smoothly, this jeopardizes an entire workforce who relies on technology during OE. Employers should use post-OE as an opportunity to think about next year’s open enrollment while they can still recall what went wrong in the previous open enrollment. HR can learn new technology with new hires and employees who may experience life events. This provides ample time to build and test carrier connectivity as well.


Many organizations prep like crazy for open enrollment, get through the rollout, and then put benefits on the back burner until next year. Keeping benefits at the forefront allows employers to gain more insight throughout the year. This can be done by reviewing data.

Unfortunately, reviewing data isn’t always easy for HR professionals…

Most technology solutions house valuable data, however, access to that data is usually a struggle. To access data, HR has to submit a ticket or wait for permission to pull data. That data belongs to the employer, and the right technology solution doesn’t restrict employers access to that data. With easy access to data on an on-going basis, organizations can access their data through robust reporting functionality.

With unrestricted access to data, HR can conduct a thorough analysis of employees’ behaviors and patterns post-OE. Evaluating factors such as adoption rates and the time taken for enrollment can identify and address any issues or points of friction. Additionally, HR can take advantage of this opportunity to establish benchmarks for future comparisons. In 12 months, this strategic approach will provide valuable data that guides the path forward.

Client service

Updating processes, connectivity with carriers, testing technology, and access to data… how do employers and brokers follow through with all of this? With aid from the right technology partner…

Instead of employers or their broker shouldering the entire responsibility of researching solutions, an ideal partner will conduct an in-depth discovery process alongside them. This involves evaluating their needs, challenges, and objectives to pinpoint the most suitable solution.

Once the optimal solution is identified, a proficient technology partner will come equipped with a team of experts ready to configure, support, and maintain the solution. Through establishing transparent expectations regarding system functionality, potential limitations, and timelines, they ensure a deliberate approach in preparing their clients for success during the implementation and launch of the new platform.

The right technology partner is with employers every step of the way. Clients will have questions – the right partner will be there to answer with timely and reliable information.

The bar is set very low for client service, but it doesn’t have to be that way. Working with ebm gives brokers and employers access to our toolbox of technology solutions and a dedicated team of benefits technology experts to crush open enrollment and beyond. Learn more about how ebm can elevate benefits administration at your organization (or for your clients, brokers).

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