These days, brokers' schedules are packed from January to December.
But the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) open enrollment season system raises workloads (and stress levels) to a whole new level.
Looking for some ideas on how to survive the next few months?
Here are a few tips from your peers that just might help.
1. Be disciplined
A lot of alcohol ... and a disciplined approach. We have limited PTO and engaged outsourcing services to handle the work. We’ve also made an effort to move into the larger group market where we can more easily spread out renewal dates, and we are as ahead of the curve as we can be.
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CEO, Lake Norman Benefits, Inc.
2. Help year-round
I know this is an issue with every employee benefits firm. In years past, you had a spike from September through mid-January and were at least able to count on things slowing down from February through August.
With PPACA, benefit administration systems, growing compliance concerns, etc., there’s so much pressure to keep your clients informed year-round that open enrollment season has become January through December.
We are fortunate to have an excellent staff that can handle the ever-changing workflow requirements of the employee benefit industry, as well as core carrier partnerships that help to simplify the enrollment process.
Partner/Benefits Consultant, Brock and Spencer Benefits
Image: TS/Anika Salsera
3. Have a little fun
At Really Great Employee Benefits, during open enrollment season we do fun things with our employees every 10 days such as ice cream parties, pizza lunches and yoga classes after work one day a week. Employees can also earn raffle tickets for going above and beyond, voted by their peers. In January, they can choose among different prizes.
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President, Really Great Employee Benefits
4. Expect the unexpected
1. Plan and prepare as much as possible in advance of open enrollment — this will minimize last minute issues.
2. There will still be last minute issues even though you do all the planning possible (Murphy's law was probably written during the fourth quarter). Assign a point person to each employer as the problem solver/crisis manager. Make sure they exchange contact data with the proper contacts at the employer, insurers, benefit admin vendors, or other third parties.
3. Take time to recognize your team and have fun doing it. We have "thank you" snack carts we push through busy work areas offering snacks that are sugary, salty, or healthy — the associates choose what they like. "Thanks a latte" days and pizza or sub sandwich lunches work, too. It's amazing how a little recognition (and some calories or caffeine) helps relieve stress.
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5. Be efficient
Every season is open enrollment season now. Each day is increasingly difficult, with many more complexities to manage. There’s the constant struggle between juggling the demand of needing to offer so much more and the financial pressures of remaining profitable. The solution for us has been ensuring we have the right people in the right seats and obsessively hunting for operational efficiencies. Much time is spent understanding how we can automate our processes and make the lives of our incredible team easier. That and wine; lots and lots of wine.
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CEO, Alltrust Insurance
6. Write it down
I usually switch to a paper calendar during open enrollment. Crazy, I know, but I’ve been burned by forgetting to set an alarm on my Outlook calendar. I’m an “out of sight, out of mind” kind of guy, so seeing each day on paper is a must.
I’ve also learned that procrastination kills during OE season, so I never put off what I can do today.
There’s so much coordination with players in HR, payroll and agents/brokers, that you simply can’t delay on the front end. Even with these good intentions and plans, around the first week in December, I find myself curled up in a ball in the corner, rocking back and forth and sucking my thumb…
See also: Grant yourself a license to chill
Benefits Selling columnist and author of “The Tinderbox Tapes”