7 Tips for a More Productive Open Enrollment Planning Meeting (Advice for Brokers)

Jellyvision Benefits Communication

7-tipsa2Like most brokers, I spend a good part of the summer meeting with my clients to start mapping out a plan for their Q4 open enrollment. And after doing this for more than 19 years, I’ve come up with a little checklist of to-dos that helps me make sure these client planning meetings are as helpful, productive, and stress-free as possible. Here it is:

What to Do a Month Before the Meeting:

#1. Share an employee satisfaction survey for them to pass on

A month or so before we meet, I like to send out an employee survey to my clients that I encourage them to ask their workforce to fill out. The survey asks a variety of questions about employees’ satisfaction with their benefits and the communication the company provides around those benefits.

I avoid yes or no questions, but instead create statements that can be responded to with ‘strongly agree,’ ‘strongly disagree,’ or somewhere in between. Statements like the following work well: ‘I believe our benefits provide better-than-average savings and protection’ or ‘The benefits provided by my organization played a significant role in my decision to join this organization.’ Not only will these kinds of prompts result in very useful data for you and your client, but your client’s employees will feel better about their employer just because they’re being asked. Don’t be afraid to ask variations of the same question a few times; sometimes it’s how something is said that gets to the heart of the issue. However, you want to avoid making the survey much longer than 15 minutes. You can use SurveyMonkey or other survey generators to collect this kind of data.

#2. Start doing a claims review

Additionally, in advance of the meeting, our analytics guy will do a claims review. We want to look at what’s going on from a spend perspective, and have that information ready to present at the meeting. This data is the crux of the OE planning meeting. An agent should be able to provide thorough data surrounding the medical loss ratio; a good carrier should be able to provide lifestyle indicators driving the group’s claims. That way, you can think about introducing the possibility of, say, a wellness program at this meeting. Or the group can also consider the idea of self-funding and if that’s a risk they want to take.

#3. Send the invitation for the meeting, get catering lined up

I usually ask the client to come into our office, but I’m more than willing to accommodate if they’d like to meet at their office. In the case of meeting at your client’s place, make sure that, if you’re planning on sharing a PowerPoint, the room is equipped to share it with everyone.

Usually, we make the meeting two hours long. That’s enough time to get through everything without it feeling super-taxing. Food-wise, we obviously cover that cost, and I usually throw out a couple possibilities, but ask them if there’s anything they like, and we do that. And sometimes, I bring a case of Bud Light and some noisemakers. Just kidding. 🙂


What to Do a Few Days Before the Meeting:

#4. Send along a little preview

A couple days before the meeting, I generally send along an email of what I’m hoping to cover…a quick little agenda of sorts. And I run it past the client to see if there’s anything they’d like to cover, too. This way there are no surprises.


The Meeting Itself – What to Cover and How:

#5. Follow an agenda like this

I usually have these meetings 3-4 months before my client’s open enrollment. Every client is a little different of course, but a typical meeting agenda would look like this:

  • Eat & talk
  • We ask the HR team to voice any concerns/ questions right off the bat…i.e. start by listening (I think this is really important, btw…)
  • Then: Quick recap of what we learned from last year’s OE (presumably, you would have covered this already earlier in the year, so this would be touching on the highlights from that discussion)
  • Results of claims review and what it means
    • NOTE: Depending on findings, this may lead to discussions of whether a self-funded plan is a good idea; or if there are a lot of claims that a strong wellness program could help curtail, we might touch on that
  • Highlighting new products we think they may benefit from
  • Optional: A brief run-down on how any upcoming legislation will affect coverage
  • Nail down a good date for open enrollment
    • It’s great to get this figured out now…the earlier I can get a date locked down, the better chance our team has of avoiding having a whole bunch of open enrollments for multiple clients during the same week
  • Quick review of what was covered, any last questions, and that’s it!

After the Meeting

#6. Do a meaningful follow-up, right away

It’s easy for things to get lost in the shuffle after a big, meaty meeting, so I always send along a summary of what was talked about the day after, to remind everybody. Also, a list reminding everyone of next steps. And, just for fun, a link to something funny related to whatever fun thing was talked about in the meeting. (For example: if we ended up talking about Westworld while eating lunch, I might send a link to an interesting article about Westworld. That sort of thing.)

Usually, our office’s next steps are to provide quotes on the cost of plans and benefits. We also send out a “decisions timeline” to the client. We want them to have a visual of all of the important deadlines for making their open enrollment smooth. It’s also nice because if they don’t meet those deadlines, we can refer back to the timeline when things don’t turn out like we wanted them to, and illustrate why that is.

#7. Optional: celebrate!

Lastly, after these meetings are done, it’s possible that my fellow brokers (i.e. my three brothers) and I will celebrate with an adult beverage or two after work. (Like, say, an HMOjito. Or a COBRA Bite. Or a delicious Leave of Absinthe.)

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If you enjoyed this post, make sure to also check out:

4 Things to Do Before You Make a Big Change to Your Benefits Offerings (also by Jon)

8 Questions to Ask Benefits Brokers Before You Hire Them

9 Tips for an Engaging, Readable, Not-Boring Benefits Guide