If you choose the right tech vendor, clearly set your goals and priorities, prepare appropriately for your implementation, and communicate effectively to employees, then your enrollment should go more smoothly. (Photo: iStock)

You’ve been in HR since before you can remember and you’ve just gotten the order that the company will be “going green” for the next open enrollment. Yes, you’ll save on paper cuts and the time it takes to hunt down everyone’s forms and applications, but an online enrollment?

Related: 10 tips for benefits enrollment

While this is a big project, with the right tech partner and preparation, you can go green in no time.

Choosing your best-fit vendor partner

The first and probably most important step of the process is choosing the right benefits technology vendor. You and your consultant may opt for a formal RFP process, or a less formal “market check” to see what is available.

Make sure you have a good understanding of the landscape. Some technology vendors may specialize in employers with 10,000+ employees, some may really focus on small to mid-size employers. Understand if your vendors are appropriate for your company’s size and industry.

You will also want any potential vendors to understand what you are trying to accomplish. Is this change meant to make benefits shopping easier and more informative for employees? Is your goal to increase operational efficiency for your HR team? All the above?

Related: The future of health benefits technologies

Be sure to fully understand your goals and articulate them clearly to any potential partner. Also, your broker/consultant should be there every step of the way in choosing a technology partner: crafting an RFP, attending finalist meetings, helping you weigh the options and providing context throughout the implementation.

The right broker partner should play an instrumental role in this process and should act as an extension of your team.

Know your timeline

Let’s be honest, the six weeks leading up to open enrollment are likely the busiest time of the year for your HR team. It’s also the time each year when you might think, “I really wish we could do open enrollment online this year!”

Should that cross your mind, take a step back because that’s usually not the right time to change your entire benefits enrollment process.

Instead, make sure an initiative as big and important as choosing and implementing a new benefits technology is made strategically and with plenty of time to do it right. We have seen the most successful implementations typically begin about six months before the open enrollment window. This allows plenty of time to complete the implementation and for the end user (i.e., HR) to get comfortable with the new system before the frantic pace of open enrollment strikes.

Know your benefits

This probably seems obvious, but the more prepared you are before the implementation process begins, the smoother things will go. Gather all your plan booklets, know your plan rules, and the ins and outs of your benefit program.

Moving from a paper process to a technology platform will likely raise questions about your plan rules that you aren’t forced to think about every day, but it will be important to get them right for a smooth transition. Collecting all your documents ahead of time, and getting clear on the rules applicable to your population, will help keep the process moving.

Communicate

Use this new technology platform as an opportunity to revamp your company’s approach to employee benefits. If benefits have been something that have been glossed over in the past, leverage this time to really stress to employees the value and richness of your benefit offerings. Communications leading up to open enrollment should be clear and steady, notifying employees of any plan changes and also of the new technology that the company has chosen to invest in for their benefit.  

Related: 5 ways to up your benefits communication game

Additionally, the right technology partner’s enrollment site should reiterate the value of your benefits program by offering key information and tools, such as concrete examples of the employer’s contribution and decision-support tools that help the employee make smart decisions for themselves and their families. This will further drive home your department’s commitment to caring for your employees and investing in their future at your organization, which is what employee benefits are all about.

Finally, throw away your Band-Aids and book your vacation. If you choose the right tech vendor, clearly set your goals and priorities, prepare appropriately for your implementation, and communicate effectively to employees, then your enrollment should go that much more smoothly. Ultimately, this will allow you to focus on initiatives other than onboarding and open enrollment, while giving your executive team something else to smile about.