Whether you are in human resources, manage finances, are an executive or handle employee benefits for your company in some capacity, your benefits renewal and open enrollment can be one of the most stressful times of the year.
As that January 1st date draws closer, so does the deadline for all of those benefits administration action items, new election forms, open enrollment sessions, and communications with employees that must happen.
I’ve learned quite a few tips and tricks for this hectic time of year through my experiences in employee benefits. These tips I share below can help make your employee benefits renewal and open enrollment season a breeze.
As with anything worth doing in life, preparation is key to success. I recommend you have a written renewal timeline in place that includes your action items, the responsible party (you, the consultant, or carrier), and the due date of each item. Depending on the size of your company, you should begin your renewal process 90-75 days prior to your renewal date. This organized list can now always be used as a guide during your renewal period. For all of my Eagles fans, just as a coach refers to a play calling sheet (or Nick Foles) to win the Super Bowl, refer to your renewal timeline as your formalized game plan for renewal and open enrollment success.
Negotiating Plans and Rates
When it comes to the plan and rate negotiation period of your renewal, this is where a good benefits consultant can really help. Work with your consultant to create a multi-year benefits strategy that can help guide your future renewals based on your employees needs and company financial goals. This document is also beneficial when rate increases occur because you will already have a plan for dealing with them. This living document will evolve overtime as you adjust your benefits and assess the best way to improve your organizations culture.
Know that if you are a fully insured group, your account manager has an incentive to keep your case. Look to your benefits consultant to leverage their relationship with the account manager to secure the best rates for your renewal.
“Go Digital, or Go Home”
We all know everything is going digital and that includes benefits administration. I suggest incorporating a multimedia open enrollment that can help make that period more accessible for employees and more efficient for you. Utilize virtual live recorded meetings to complement your in-person meetings to accommodate employees who may miss the meeting or those who may be remote. It also allows for employees to view the recorded meeting on-demand to refresh themselves or gain a better understanding of a certain aspect of your benefits.
Making sure that you have a functional HRIS platform that allows you to engage your employees digitally should be a main priority. Most consultants have the technology to allow you to do your open enrollment if your company has over 25 employees. Some employee benefit firms offer this technology at no cost to you, as we do at Precision Benefits Group with our Ease HRIS platform that makes open enrollment and benefits administration extremely efficient and effective.
Hitting Your Benefits Election Deadline
One of the most difficult action items to hit on your renewal timeline is getting your employees to return their elections on time. There are always a few stragglers who require a few extra email reminders in order to receive their elections. The best way to handle these employees is to incorporate their direct manager to help urge those employees to be punctual with their insurance elections. I also recommend enforcing strict deadlines on elections that will set a strong precedent moving forward.
Early Renewal Negotiations
Depending on your insurance carrier, funding mechanism, and overall success of your employee benefits strategy, your consultant may be able to negotiate your rate directly with your current insurance carrier a few months in advanced of your actual renewal date. Early renewal negotiations can help you get ahead of schedule on your renewal timeline and checks off one of your biggest action items, making your renewal process even smoother.
Moving the Benefits Effective Date
A very large percentage of employer’s use 1/1 as a renewal date because it marks the start of their new fiscal year. However, with the help of a good benefits consultant, you may be able to move your renewal date to a month that is more convenient for you and your company. Maybe your current renewal date isn’t ideal for your business structure anymore or maybe it interferes with your busiest time of year. This flexibility can help to create more options for you to alter your renewal timeline to best meet your needs which can have a positive impact on your entire organization.