It’s Halloween month, so I’ve been thinking lately about scary stuff. Y’know, like that girl from The Ring, ‘the dark,’ cockroaches, and, perhaps scariest of all, the prospect of making the same mistakes next Open Enrollment (OE) that you did this OE. Makes the hair on your arms stand up, doesn’t it?

Luckily, there’s a great way to make sure you exorcise your open enrollment demons quickly: by conducting what some folks call an open enrollment post-mortem. (If you’re not familiar, a post-mortem is a term that originally described the conversation a medical team would have after a patient ‘didn’t make it,’ to figure out what went wrong, what went right, and what could be done with the next patient to keep them from dying. Now it’s used to mean pretty much any kind of follow-up conversation to figure how to do things better next time. The more you know….)

Conducting a post-mortem can be scary, for sure, especially if your OE was ‘haunted’ by problems. It’s tempting to just hide under the covers. But if you really do want to make sure the ghouls and goblins that freaked out your employees this year don’t return with a vengeance, you’ll need to channel your inner Bill Murray and Dan Aykroyd (or Melissa McCarthy and Kate McKinnon!) and go bust some OE ghosts.

Here are 6 thoughts on how to do that well:

#1. Conduct the post-mortem within a few weeks of your event

Your team can’t assess what they can’t remember. This seems like a no-brainer, but you all know the day after open enrollment ends you’ll have a new goblin to tackle. So, before open enrollment even starts, pick a day post-event and block of your participants’ schedules. To sweeten the deal, tell them you’ll bring all your leftover Halloween candy. (Don’t worry, the candy corn will still be good.)

#2. Get feedback from people beyond your HR team

Even if you sent a poll to your employees asking for feedback on how open enrollment went (and I’d recommend trying that, by the way), ask a few employees to participate in your post-mortem meeting. Doing so will help you get out of your own heads and give you a better idea of what the experience was like for people don’t live and breathe benefits every day. I promise you will not open the portal from Hellraiser (aka Pandora’s Box) by doing this.

#3. Have someone outside of your benefits or HR team facilitate the post mortem

This is a big one. If you don’t bring in an objective third party to help moderate the session, you run the risk of glossing over important items and letting groupthink and/or over-talkers taking over the session. Not having an outside facilitator is a little like asking Dr. Frankenstein to assess how well he did building his own Monster. (Sorry, Doc, you failed.) Also, an outside facilitator–and this could be a fellow employee outside your department–will help keep conversations from getting heated, eliminate finger pointing and make sure the meeting stays on a positive track.

#4. Be sure to include a thorough review of your OE benefits communications

This is so critical you may consider having a separate post-mortem dedicated only to your communications. How well you communicate benefits changes, enrollment, deadlines and costs is central to OE success. This post mortem should include someone from marketing, employees who received the communications, and perhaps even your brokers or communication technology vendors.

#5. Don’t turn into Freddie Krueger during your meeting

Your meeting will turn into a Nightmare On Your Street if cooler heads don’t prevail. Digging into ‘what went wrong’ is hard. I don’t care how in touch you are with yourself, criticism (even well-intended ‘constructive feedback’) can feel like a threat and hurt your ego. To help avoid defensive responses all around:

  • Remind everyone of the common goals everyone is collectively trying to achieve.
  • Leaders, model the correct meeting behavior. This is not the time for you to get defensive yourself.
  • Praise candor and courageous feedback. When someone steps out on a limb, praise them. However, remember that courageous comments should never be cruel.

#6. Share what you discovered with the company

If you don’t want your employees to throw eggs at your house, close the loop on the meeting and share your findings and what you intend to do as a result. It’ll show your workforce that you really do listen to them, and motivate more employees to raise their hands in the future.=

Can’t wait to dig into more ALEX stuff? Check out:

The ALEX Open Enrollment Communication Resource Center
6 Memes About Open Enrollment That’ll Make You Smile (blog post)
Transforming Boring Benefits Emails (an ALEX tutorial video)