Benefits Administrator’s Guide to Year-End & Open Enrollment

November 27, 2018

The last quarter of the calendar year is when most organizations have annual Open Enrollment for benefits. Naturally, this means that if you’re the Benefits Administrator in charge of Open Enrollment and Year-End, this time of year can be quite hectic. Here’s a guide to the major focus areas you should review so you can make Open Enrollment easier for all involved.

  1. Determine your enrollment strategy.

Are you opting for an active enrollment, passive enrollment or hybrid enrollment strategy? An active enrollment strategy means that all employees will need to manually re-enroll in benefits for the new plan year, even if your plans haven’t changed. A passive enrollment strategy means that all employee benefit elections from the previous plan year will roll over in the new year, except for Health Savings Account (HSA) or Flexible Spending Account (FSA) elections. Perhaps you’re choosing a hybrid strategy. With a hybrid strategy, some benefits such as company paid life insurance and disability coverage, automatically roll over, but others like health insurance, and dental insurance have to be re-elected by the employee.


  1. Do you have an employer benefits communications site, and if so, is the information up to date?

We’re in an age of self-service. Your employees would much rather have access to a website where they can find answers to their benefit questions rather than making an appointment to ask HR those questions. If you don’t already have a site where this information is accessible to employees, make one! If you do, make sure your information about open enrollment periods, new plans, new coverage levels, new rates and any other electronic materials reflect the most current versions.


  1. Have you added new benefits carriers, like new insurance provider options?

If so, make sure your new plans and carrier integrations are set up and tested in your benefits administration technology. This will help you avoid problems with your file transmissions down the line. If you have an employer benefits communication website/portal, be sure to update this. Adding Summary Plan Descriptions (SPDs) and Summary of Benefits and Coverages (SBCs) in a place where benefits-eligible employees can access them should cut down significantly on the number of plan-related questions you and the rest of the HR team get during Open Enrollment.


  1. Will you be adding new benefits that hadn’t existed before?

An example of this would be adding a retirement plan with a company match for the upcoming plan year. If you have added benefits, those plan and carrier integrations need to be set up and tested. Updating the benefits communication website with plan documents for these items applies here also.


It’s awesome when you add new benefits for your employees. Don’t be shy about sharing the exciting news about new benefits with your employees! Change communications ahead of open enrollment can help you build excitement and interest around new benefit offerings.


  1. Have there been significant changes to existing benefits, such as moving from a Preferred Provider Organization (PPO) to a High Deductible Health Plan (HDHP)?

If so, you’ll want to set up and test plans and integrations, and documentation like you’ve done when adding new benefit carriers and benefits. With changes specific to health insurance, like the example used here, make sure to check and see if you need to make changes to a pharmacy plan, or add an option for a Health Savings Account (HSA) or Health Reimbursement Account (HRA) if that applies to your specific situation.


  1. Check for changes in coverage levels and have a change communication plan in place.

Are you increasing or decreasing coverage amounts for life insurance or AD&D coverage? Make sure to execute those back-end changes and prepare change communications for affected employees.


  1. Are plan attributes changing?

Plan attributes include items such as out of pocket maximums, co-pays, and deductibles.  If so, update the configuration of your Open Enrollment systems, so that information is reflected accurately. Don’t forget to update the employee materials and the employer benefits communication site too.


  1. Do you need to add new deduction codes?

If you haven’t added new benefits, or plan options, this won’t apply to you. If you have, make sure to add these deduction codes on the benefits and payroll systems your organization is using. Don’t forget to test those payroll integrations with the new codes! This is an important step to take to avoid payroll mistakes, and the resulting payroll corrections which can be frustrating, and time consuming for both the HR team and the employee.


  1. Have you verified beneficiaries?

Verifying beneficiaries for benefits like retirement plans and life insurance is important, but it may not be top of mind for employees. It’s helpful to pick a consistent time, at least once a year to remind employees to review this information to make sure it is correct and update it if needed. Open Enrollment/Year End is a really good time for this. Combine this with a reminder about benefits system access and some reinforcement training on benefits system utilization, and your employees are well on their way to self-service.


  1. Have you verified dependents?

Similarly, to verifying beneficiaries, your employees should make sure that their dependent information is correct. They can also take a look to confirm that any of their child dependents are still eligible for benefits and haven’t reached an age where they would age off any plans for medical, dental, vision, or child supplemental life. If a child dependent would become ineligible over the upcoming year, this gives your employee and their child advanced notice about the change, so they can plan ahead.

Open Enrollment and benefits year-end can seem overwhelming, but with the right resources, like our Year-End Benefits Checklist, and an HRchitect consultant by your side, it doesn’t have to be. We’ve helped many clients get the most out of their benefits management technology, and we’re excited to help you next.


About Eric Frokjer

Eric Frokjer



Eric Frokjer has over 25 years of experience working with HCM technology and has been working with HRchitect since 2012. He enjoys working with clients to successfully implement HCM systems including Benefits, Core HRIS, Payroll, and Time & Attendance.