Insights from Gallagher’s HR & Benefits Technology Consulting Practice

Author: Rhonda P. Marcucci

If you’re like 80% of U.S. employers, you’ve recently wrapped up open enrollment (OE) for 2021. As with nearly everything else in 2020, you may have made adjustments to your processes to accommodate a largely remote workforce. For some, that meant a virtual benefits fair, implementing a new online tool or an enhanced digital communication strategy. 

If things went well, congratulations! It’s been a tough year and you deserve to celebrate your success. If OE didn’t go so well (particularly if it was your first online OE), hopefully, you’ve learned things that will ensure a smoother process next year. Regardless, it’s understandable to want to close the book on open enrollment until next year and focus on other priorities. Before you do that, make time to review how things went and to take steps to ensure that everything related to employee coverages and associated payroll deductions will work as expected in the coming weeks. 

To make this process as easy as possible (because we know you really do want to put OE to bed), we’re happy to provide this simple checklist. 

Complete these tasks before December 31

  • Confirm that all carriers have successfully uploaded your employees’ elections. Presumably, you would hear if there were problems, but you’ll sleep better knowing for sure this process is complete. 
  • If employees will not have their ID cards in-hand by January 1, develop a communications plan to ensure they understand how to access their coverage without a card. This will relieve the anxiety that is commonplace among employees when they don’t have a physical (or digital) card at the ready when they need it. (This will also cut down on calls to HR asking, “Where’s my card?”) 
  • Audit your payroll deduction file to confirm it reflects 2021 deductions based on the new rates and contributions and that it loads correctly.*

Complete these tasks within the first month or two of the new year

  • Audit your self-billed or list-billed invoices for at least the first two months of the new year. Check for accuracy of enrollment and rates and that it accurately reflects the information you provided. Correct any identified errors as soon as possible so they don’t reoccur.*
    *If you are not comfortable auditing your payroll deduction file or billing invoices (or you’re not sure how best to do it), enlist help from your finance team. Some benefit administration/payroll systems include audit functionality. Check with your service providers about what is included in your tools.
  • Develop and implement a communications plan to educate employees on how to use their benefits. Typically, employee messaging about benefits tends to focus on how to choose benefits, but employees and employers can save money when employees are smarter about how to use their benefits most effectively. Decision support technology is available to help with both choosing and using benefits. Contact your benefits advisor for help in locating best-fit technology that meets your specific needs.
  • If this was your first online enrollment (and you plan to stay online going forward), test your life event functionality. Due to the pandemic, many employers still using paper to enroll employees rushed to put into place an online benefits enrollment tool but may not have taken time to set up life event functionality. Don’t wait until you have an employee with a life event to discover there’s a glitch in your system.
  • Take a moment to thank all those who helped make open enrollment happen—perhaps under challenging circumstances, including your carriers, technology service providers, and benefits advisor. Everyone is stressed this time of year and a kind word now may serve you well down the road when you need their help. If you had problems with your online enrollment, engage your benefits advisor and service provider to discuss how to improve things for next year. 

Online enrollment technology was a lifesaver for many employers in 2020, given the limitations on in-person meetings. Whether this was your first time using an online platform or the pandemic pushed you to use your system more fully, take time to evaluate how well things worked. Then ask yourself if you want to get more out of your system or replace it to meet new needs? Our team of HR technology experts can help your organization assess its needs (including for online enrollment), identify best-fit products in the market, and even help with implementation—all in support of your people strategy. Contact us today to learn more.

Author Information:


Consulting and insurance brokerage services to be provided by Gallagher Benefit Services, Inc. and/or its affiliate Gallagher Benefit Services (Canada) Group Inc. Gallagher Benefit Services, Inc. is a licensed insurance agency that does business in California as “Gallagher Benefit Services of California Insurance Services” and in Massachusetts as “Gallagher Benefit Insurance Services.” Neither Arthur J. Gallagher & Co., nor its affiliates provide accounting, legal or tax advice.

This material was created to provide accurate and reliable information on the subjects covered but should not be regarded as a complete analysis of these subjects. It is not intended to provide specific legal, tax or other professional advice. The services of an appropriate professional should be sought regarding your individual situation.