Virtual Open Enrollment Post-Evaluation: What to Know for Next Time

post-open-enrollment-evaluation

As our real lives moved online, the 2020 open enrollment period was perfect timing to roll out virtual enrollment solutions. Instead of investing hundreds of hours on in-person events that may have been difficult to host with stay-at-home restrictions and concerns about large gatherings, this was an opportunity to see how best to make this service simple to understand in a completely different medium.

By doing so, what did benefits companies learn about their members and themselves? Let’s look at the preparation, implementation, and follow-up strategies for virtual open enrollment to know how to prepare for next time!

Virtual Open Enrollment Post-Evaluation Tips

1

Prepare ahead of time as much as possible

First, even though benefit teams didn’t have the luxury of time to plan ahead this past year, it was important to at least get an idea of what people needed to have a successful experience. Companies had to ask questions, analyze survey answers, and make sure to head off past concerns.

Since employers were equally as stressed due to their new working environments, they also had to deal with increased costs and decreased accessibility. This is in addition to already-known rising costs. In fact, the National Business Group on Health reported that large companies say their total cost of health care, including premiums and out-of-pocket costs for employees and dependents, increased to $15,375 per employee in 2020, up from $14,642 in 2019.

Companies also had to figure out the best way to reach people while still balancing funding, which influenced whether they chose full virtual events, smaller break-out sessions, or a mix of events. This meant in-depth surveys, follow up questions, and giving people what they needed. What did they want, how did they want it, and how could this be made as easy as possible?

Megan Taggart, Sr. Marketing Manager of Client Expansion at ConnectYourCare explained, “Listening to our clients really helped us define a scope and center on the must-haves vs. nice-to-haves. We created a virtual open enrollment fair solution that centered around our most important factors: creating an easier, more convenient, accessible, and engaging means of learning about benefit accounts while easing the workload for benefits teams.”

2

Provide for all types of learning and communication

Materials matter. As we all know, people learn best in different ways, and in this virtual world, it’s important to try and cover all the avenues.

Companies offered fully detailed text, savings calculators, and videos that could be accessed on any device at any time. Live streaming and one-on-one chat support also helped people get real-time answers. Basically, virtual open enrollment became all about convenience.

According to data from our partner, Winston Benefits, they saw a 12% increase in benefits enrollment in 2020 and found a 100% increase in online enrollments from last year with 20% of those on mobile. Obviously, with all these changes, benefits details need to be clear, concise, and easy to access.

“The positive here is that virtual enrollment isn’t just a survival tactic anymore. It’s now a best practice,” Taggart added.

Not only did employees enjoy improved accessibility, but employers also enjoyed the full support of the breadth of materials. When the materials can answer questions even before a person can, it eases the burden on call and chat centers. They can then turn their attention to the complex, individualized concerns.

As always, cost is a major factor in what businesses can offer. However, Taggart said, “When we surveyed our clients, we found over 80% responded that their main concerns were centered around prioritizing employee accessibility over cost.” The personal, always-accessible nature of this year’s virtual enrollment is worth working toward for every year.

3

Track and measure

Once your virtual online enrollment gets going, you can just kick back and rest. Just kidding—it’s time to dig in! You’ll want to observe and take notes, as well as ask your team to do the same. What questions do people have? Which materials resonate? What group needs the most help?

With online events, so many parts of it can be tracked and measured for future use. Use the ability to track open enrollment platform metrics to better understand how people navigated this year, plus get information like detailed demographics and time spent on various sites.

This is also the time to organize your numbers and statistics on downloads, click throughs, employee behaviors, and engagement metrics. Aside from hard numbers, talk with your team to see what patterns they’ve observed, too. They’ll have personal insights you’ll want to record.

When you know what drives traffic, what people want, and when people want it, you’ll be even better prepared for next time.

It’s also important to make sure you reached employees on their own terms. Did you offer bite-sized videos for the younger generation? Is your chat messaging service effective? Was it user-friendly enough for people who aren’t as comfortable online, such as those who work factory jobs or retirees? For example, the Pew Research Center found that only 26% of internet users ages 65 and over were ‘very confident’ when using computers, smartphones or other electronic devices. With all the resources being online, you’re going to have to make sure people can actually access and comfortably use them.

“Taking an analytical approach to looking at exactly what worked and what didn’t work is critical to improving the effectiveness of virtual education efforts,” said Alicia Main, Vice President of Client Marketing at ConnectYourCare. “Looking at where users spend their time and are most engaged is your best tool to build out future enhancements.”

4

Go to the source

Ask—just ask. Take the time to send out post-enrollment surveys to participants and your HR staff who worked the enrollment events. Every answer you receive gives you a little more insight to make improvements for the next time. Some answers are better than none.

After surveying, take the time to talk to people one-on-one. Would they be willing to give a testimonial? Would they like to tell you how to improve? With virtual open enrollment being the way of the future, it benefits everyone to build and maintain a successful event.

The good news is, people are rooting for you. Despite the challenges, organizations overwhelmingly rate virtual open enrollment efforts as effective. According to the 2020 Trends in Benefit Open Enrollment and Communication study, 92% of organizations rate efforts as either very effective (27%) or somewhat effective (65%).

Listen to our latest podcast with tips for a successful virtual open enrollment based on last year’s experience!

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Grow and develop over time

Companies aren’t going to be blindsided again, and with that knowledge, virtual open enrollment will only improve. The materials, the technology, and the accessibility will continue to develop. Gone are the days of leaving a trade show with a fistful of brochures. If you missed it in the summer, we hosted a webinar that’s now available called Making Benefits a Virtual Reality with great tips for taking your open enrollment online.

“By moving benefits education, including open enrollment fairs, into a virtual environment, we’re giving people what they want, when they want it,” said Main. “Never before have we been able to reach all employees on their own terms. And, as we look at our findings and improve the technological innovations, each year the entire experience is only going to get better.”

About the Author:
Carla Wardin lives in St. Johns, Michigan, where she focuses her writing on the health and technology industries.

By |2021-01-26T11:43:39-05:00January 26th, 2021|Brokers, Employer Posts, Open Enrollment|
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