Open enrollment season is here, and brokers across the country should be ready to help their clients navigate all that comes with it. As a former broker, I know this time of year is hectic. If you’ve done your job leading up to this point, then you’ve already had meaningful conversations with your clients. Now your goal is to help them deal with the inevitable price increase on their benefit packages. You will be negotiating on their behalf to get the strongest package, at the most ideal price — ultimately helping them attract and retain the very best employees. For many companies, facing an increase in benefits costs coupled with recruiting and compliance requirements is challenging. Here are some things to keep top of mind as open enrollment season approaches.

Also see: The 50 biggest benefit brokerages in the large-group market, part 1.”

1) Know what your clients need. Your clients expect you to be knowledgeable on new regulations — especially around changes in compliance laws as they relate to their business. More importantly, it’s essential to understand the nuances, like accurate and timely completion of forms 1094 and 1095. These both led to a lot of confusion last year, and the IRS had to extend the deadlines. Compliance calendars can be very helpful in this regard, providing reminders to your team on certain provisional deadlines that your clients may be unaware of. Additionally, be sure the right steps have been taken to avoid penalties from new ACA obligations and that you've explored every way to maximize client budget. Even the smallest of changes can have a significant impact on what your clients or their employees pay.

2) Leverage new technology. Open enrollment is a time when you have your clients’ ears, so it's the perfect opportunity to introduce new enrollment or benefits tools. Think about what you can offer to solve their problems on a broader scope. For instance, now is the time to go mobile. There are new apps that provide real-time access to benefits information, which is helpful for both you and your client. For example, Barney and Barney is using the iBenefits app for benefits information. Benefitcloud is another great resource for simplifying enrollment. While tech tools are helpful for logistics, it’s reassuring to have an expert available to help as well. Solutions like ThinkHR offer a team of HR advisors that provide a human connection and a competitive advantage.

3) Workforce communication is essential

Increasing the effectiveness of open enrollment starts with communication and timeliness. A common challenge for companies continues to be getting employees to review benefits materials and sign up on time. Some employees don't understand new plans, which causes the process to be prolonged. Marketing materials can be an effective way to fix this. For instance, a synopsis of the benefits options will encourage more employees to get familiar with the various plans and sign up ahead of the deadline. Also, recording benefit sessions and disseminating videos to the workforce can help to increase engagement. Your clients can also incentivize sign ups by implementing company-wide contests around various tasks. Who doesn't love a good old-fashioned pizza party, or maybe some cupcakes, too?

Also see:Employers should partner with employees to fight financial stress.

Renewal and enrollment season can be overly stressful to your team and your clients. There’s no getting around that. You know your job is taking care of your clients’ needs. If you do that, your clients are more likely to view you as a partner and your retention rates will stay strong.

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