SHRM: As Open Enrollment Ends, Capture What You’ve Learned
HR benefits managers have survived another year’s open enrollment season—we hope. It’s now time to take a nice long break and put that completed obstacle course behind you, right? Not so fast. Standing back and reviewing what went smoothly and what tripped you up can ensure an easier, more effective process when next fall inevitably rolls around.
Looking Back and Planning Forward
“It shouldn’t be ‘one and done,’ ” said Kim Buckey, vice president of client services at Birmingham, Ala.-based DirectPath, an employee engagement, health care transparency and compliance company. “Once enrollment ends, start planning for the next year.”
Meredith Ryan-Reid, senior vice president for group, voluntary and worksite benefits at insurer MetLife in New York City, said that she has “a practice of doing a town hall or sending out a survey after open enrollment, asking what was clear, what wasn’t clear and what are you still concerned about?”
Employee responses may show that “the parts of the process we spend a lot of time and money on aren’t being valued by employees,” she said. “Everyone has precious few minutes in the day and precious few dollars to spend, so it helps to focus on what’s going to drive the greatest engagement and satisfaction.”
“Have a post-mortem at the end of open enrollment,” advised Kirk McConnell, San Francisco-based product marketing lead at Collective Health, a health benefits administration firm. “Take note of what worked well regarding timing, messaging, tech systems and the overall process—before you forget what you’re now telling yourself you would never do again—because you’re going to face many of the same challenges next year,” he noted.
Steps to Take Now
Mark Rader, benefits communication expert at Chicago-based Jellyvision, which markets software that helps employees make benefits choices, offered these tips for examining how your open enrollment went and what you’d like to take away from the experience for next year:
- Revisit the goals you set earlier in the year.
“Make sure you’re basing your impression of how successful your open enrollment was on whether you met the goals you set out to accomplish, not how you feel about it now,” Rader noted. “Ideally, you should bring in an objective third party—someone not in the HR department—to moderate this review,” he said. “If you don’t, you run the risk of glossing over important items and letting groupthink take over the session.”
- Review benefits communications.
Did your e-mails, posters and other messaging hit the mark? “Schedule an hour to review that content and find out,” Rader advised. For an outside perspective, “include someone from your marketing or creative departments, a few employees who received the communications, and perhaps even your brokers or communication technology vendors,” he suggested.
- Survey employees.
Not sure if employees like the new enrollment platform you moved to this year? Thinking about offering a new benefits decision support tool next year? “Take the temperature of your workforce by sending them a survey,” Rader said.
“Sign up for a free account with an online survey provider like SurveyMonkey. Then build out a survey that asks your workforce the questions important to you,” he recommended. Allow employees to answer anonymously to promote honest feedback. To prompt more detailed answers, “consider sending links to the open enrollment resources in question to give them something concrete to respond to.”
- Share what you discover.
After you’ve asked your employees to share their views, “don’t forget to close the circle and share the most relevant findings with your workforce,” Rader said. “It will remind them that you really do value their opinions and motivate more people to participate in the surveys you conduct down the road.”
Record Your Insights
As you identify what went well and what could have been better, “it’s only natural that you’ll start brainstorming a little for next fall,” Rader noted. Assign a scribe to capture these ideas and ask the HR team to decide as a group which are the highest-priority items. “If any involve investing in new tools, see if you can adjust your budget now to make sure the funds you’ll need will be there later in the year,” he added.
By examining what went well and what didn’t, “you can build on this year’s successes, find solutions for the hiccups, and tee up for next year,” advised Jennifer Benz, founder and CEO at Benz Communications in San Francisco.
Benz has put together a downloadable open enrollment campaign debrief worksheet to help evaluate and record what went well and what could be improved next year. The worksheet, for instance, can be used to measure the success of communications efforts by recording data such as:
- Web traffic.
- E-mail click-through and open rates.
- Meeting attendance (in person or online).
- Communication survey results.
- Focus group responses.
Benz’s worksheet asks questions such as “What are you most proud of about your open enrollment campaign?” A sample response: “We are thrilled with the number of employees who attended the enrollment fair.”
It’s also a place to record changes in benefit plan enrollment numbers, which will be helpful when evaluating future changes in benefit designs and offerings.
After all, next autumn isn’t so very far away.
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(Stephen Miller, CEBS, Online Manager/Editor, Compensation & Benefits, SHRM Online)