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It's OE Time Again!

Something mystical happens immediately after Halloween and sometimes even before then. Kind of like Hallmark Christmas movies creeping in to either soothe us or torture us in the knowledge that Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas is you will shortly be upon us, open enrollment sneaks up on many of us like a frightful recurring dream. There’s usually at least one twist. This year was no different when we were “gifted” a decrease to the affordability percent which makes it 9.12% for 2023. That said, at least FSA and 401(k) max amounts are going up which is good for participants.

Benefits renewal and open enrollment is a frenzied time of hurrying up and waiting for our current carrier to issue their renewal rates, our broker to do the song and dance with them before presenting us with said rates, and then likely shopping them out with other carriers only to usually end up with the original one. It’s necessary since sometimes a change in carrier is what is best for employees.

It’s always, and I mean always crunch time since we don’t get initial renewal numbers until the end of October and final ones until the end of November most years. Once that happens, it’s a mad dash to get everything set up in the system for open enrollment elections, all during our operational busiest time of the year, and amidst holiday observances. As I am not an athletically minded person, this is my personal triathlon if you will.

It has been this way for me since I can remember. It doesn’t even faze me anymore. There is little I can control but in the things I can, I’ve sought ways to streamline as much as possible so that we can rollout open enrollment in early December and have everything completed by December 15th in order to ensure all employees are updated in all systems by January 1st.

Some of the things I do to prepare include:

  • Involve the Executive team in the process from the beginning - I am very fortunate that benefits is an area of proper interest to our President. When deciding what plans and offerings we have for employees, they are evaluating the human impact along with budgetary constraints. They understand the time sensitive nature of making a final decision.

  • Communicate with employees as early as possible – Although it takes a couple of weeks to set up our HCM system for the actual elections, we communicate rates and MAJOR changes, if any, as soon as we’ve made a decision. In fact, this communication comes directly from the President instead of HR. They include some bullet points on what led to the final decision and reasoning. We discuss next steps. This gives employees an opportunity to ask HR questions in the meantime which also helps me fine tune any FAQs necessary during the Open Enrollment communications.

  • Communication and Document Templates – One of my best friends through this process is a spreadsheet I created where I can quickly input the year’s affordability percent, the rate of pay of our lowest paid EE, rates, and other data to help us quickly determine monthly and per pay period contributions while ensuring we (employer) are paying at least 60% for our base medical plan and whether or not it meets affordability. I have this set up to include the prior year’s information for a quick glance comparison. I also have other checklists, Memos and email templates that we adjust and use year over year. Without those, an already stressful time would be worse and increase room for error.

  • Remember partners – Equally important in the communications timeline is giving our HCM vendor regular updates and as much information as possible as quickly as we can. This helps them build out the system along the way which helps with a timely Open Enrollment rollout.

Although Insurance Renewal and Open Enrollment time can be stressful, once it’s complete, I feel satisfaction in knowing our human centered decisions will hopefully provide the coverage our employees will lean on when and if they need it. It’s one of the few times in HR I know I have an almost immediate impact. It’s not always well received, but I know I’ve done the best I could for all. That’s enough most days. Now back to the Christmas movie line up where I know what to expect!

What are your best tips for a reduced stress open enrollment?

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