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October 19, 2016

Can a convenient open enrollment process improve employer-employee relations?

We are all members of the experience economy. I would argue, though, that we’re moving toward what many call the convenience economy. Consumers, investors, titans of the industry, you name it, are seeking convenience more than anything.

We can order nearly anything on Amazon today and get it tomorrow. We expect websites and apps to remember our credit card numbers so we can get what we need quicker and easier. Convenience is becoming a central factor to almost every aspect of our lives – including how we organize and plan our medical benefits, starting with open enrollment.

Often a time of confusion and chaos, open enrollment season doesn’t have to wreak havoc on everyone’s sanity. With a little planning, establishment of efficient communication systems and understanding of how all parties involved have skin in the game, employers, employees, vendors and brokers and consultants can be better prepared to make open enrollment more convenient.

Employers

Ultimately, employers want the open enrollment process to be a smooth, positive experience for their employees, while at the same time, be able to extract clean population health care data. This data mined from electronic open enrollment systems can help employers better engage employees. By creating convenience for their employees, employers are creating a means for increased productivity and decreased time away from work. In the past, open enrollment often cluttered systems and consumed HR departments’ staff time. By creating creative, convenient and integrated tech, employers can keep within regulatory and statutory protocols while keeping it easy for employees, declutter data and make the process friendly and engaging.  

Employees

Employees want health plans that are personalized and custom tailored to their needs. But more so, the enrollment process has to be convenient. The system should pull the employees’ available data to populate the new plan without so much effort. Additionally, employers need to be aware that how they communicate plan options during open enrollment has an impact on employees’ engagement. There are currently three generations in the workforce – baby boomers, Generation X and millennials – and each group uses different technology and prefers to gather information in different ways. Boomers want to talk to someone face-to-face or over the phone. Generation Xers want to find information on their own via websites or other search functions. Meanwhile, millennials want apps and the ease of electronic enrollment. Employers should communicate all three ways and offer the option to call a human being on the phone to lend assistance.

Vendors

Unsurprisingly, vendors hope to see a high enrollment in their product, particularly if it’s a voluntary product. However, before hiring a vendor to handle open enrollment, it’s vital to check implementation of systems. In order to extract clean data, vendor systems need to be in a format that’s going to fit into the company’s established system. Unfortunately, systems that don’t communicate create a bottleneck where they must create a new bridge from one system over to the other. Companies and vendors can save themselves a lot of hassle and stress if they confirm system implementation before engaging in a relationship or partnership.

Brokers and Consultants

Different from the other three stakeholders in open enrollment, brokers and consultants manage the project and coordinate all the players and tools. As the manager of the product, brokers and consultants aim to coordinate employers, employees and vendors while maintaining systems and technologies, and push them out to the employee population in such a way that best suits specific companies. This group aims to hold performance commitments from the players involved, as each one of these stakeholders is looking for a different experience. Coordinating platforms and stakeholders can become a relatively large task when considering the different needs of all those involved in open enrollment.

Primarily, employees should experience the most convenience as they are the main group served during open enrollment. Ultimately, we hope that a smooth, easy open enrollment process will eventually enhance the relationship between employers and employees.

The infographic below highlights what each group wants in a convenient open enrollment process:


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