Written by Dixie Vaughan
Each year after January 1st and June 1st, millions of HR professionals breathe a sigh of relief. That’s because the overwhelming majority of companies in the United States renew benefits plans at the start of, or mid-point of the calendar year. These HR professionals have been working hard in the months and weeks leading up to Open Enrollment, as the process that HR and HRIS goes through each year to create new, and modify existing benefit plans for Open Enrollment requires a lot of pre-planning and project management. There is even more work for your HR team to accomplish if your organization has benefit vendor changes which will require even more pre-planning and coordination as there may be new benefit interfaces and additional HR system configuration.
If you’ve just finished up your Open Enrollment, take some time to celebrate your successful project completion accordingly.
Tip #1 – Start early to determine what types of changes may be happening for your next year’s Open Enrollment. If there are potential changes to vendor(s), identifying that soon after the current year Open Enrollment ends can help identify timeline and risks. Starting early also will provide adequate time to identify which vendors should be included in the RFP process, since the vendor selection process can be a lengthy process and should not be rushed. Negotiations can also take time and should be factored into the overall project plan.
Tip #2 – Be sure to include the right people on the project team, including your HRIS team. HRIS will need to provide estimated timelines to implement changes to programming and test HRIS configuration and interfaces.
Tip #3 – Provide more time than you think you’ll need to create or modify employee communications. Employees will need to be aware of plan or rate changes to help them make an educated decision, before they sit down to make their benefit elections for the coming plan year. Take your time to review employee communications and to make changes in verbiage. Making sure you’re communicating comprehensively and effectively is important, and you don’t want to rush through this, at the risk of accidentally leaving out a key piece of information.
Tip #4 – Once your benefit plan changes have been implemented in your HRIS, be sure to test very thoroughly. Include HR and HCM in testing to ensure everything is working as expected and the necessary verbiage matches the employee communications.
Tip #5 – Before Open Enrollment go live, run employee data audits to ensure there are no issues that may cause difficulties for the employees while they are enrolling in their benefits. Make sure to audit various combinations of employee types (exempt, non-exempt, executives), plan types (medical, dental, Vision, HSA, FSA), plans (PPO, HDHP, FSA) and options (Employee only, EE+1, Family). Creating a grid, like the example below, can be very helpful with this task.
Tip #6 – Determine how to handle on-going benefit life event changes. Some systems may have difficulties managing updates when the dates are close or the same as Open Enrollment. One strategy I’ve seen clients use effectively is disabling on-line life events for the month before Open Enrollment benefits start. This means these changes will need to be processed manually to ensure there are no conflicts.
Tip #7 – Soon after employees begin to enter plan elections, begin auditing changes that employees make to plans and/or dependents. Check for items such as dependent(s) and a spouse are enrolled when family coverage is chosen. Check to confirm that new rates are being applied. Depending on what benefits technology you are using and the limitations or features of that system, you may need to increase or decrease the frequency of your auditing. Continue to audit throughout the process so there are no surprises when the Open Enrollment period ends.
Tip #8 – Weeks before the Open Enrollment period ends, start testing the vendor file feeds with live Open Enrollment data to ensure everything is working as expected. This will also provide time for the vendor(s) and HRIS to make any necessary updates, if needed.
Finally, you may want to consider hiring a seasoned HCM/benefits consulting firm, like HRchitect, to assist in guiding your team through the process and to act as your advocate. The consultant can provide experience, knowledge and insight to questions and topics that could be overlooked or missed entirely.
Over the past two decades, HRchitect has helped thousands of organizations across the globe align their HCM technology initiatives with business objectives to achieve extraordinary results. HRchitect is a name you can trust, and your one-stop shop for all your HCM technology needs from strategy, evaluation/selection, implementation, change management, ongoing support, and everything in between.
About Dixie Vaughan
Dixie Vaughan is a Senior Consultant and Project Manager at HRchitect. She has over 25 years of experience in the HCM technology industry including applications development, implementation and support of major HCM systems including ADP Enterprise, PeopleSoft, Kronos, UltiPro, and many others.