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Jen Williams July 24, 2023 4 min read

Proven Project Management Methods to Ensure a Smooth Open Enrollment

Open enrollment can be overwhelming, even to the most seasoned human resources professionals. So much effort goes into reviewing your benefits and medical plan designs, socializing changes, and obtaining approvals from leadership. On top of that, you need to communicate what’s new and changing to employees, along with reminding them about everything you offer. Here are 3 key areas that our project managers focus on to ensure that open enrollment runs smoothly and communication campaigns are delivered successfully. We hope they help your own project plan find success too!

Early Preparation

Planning ahead for your open enrollment communications is always a good idea, but what does that entail?

Develop a clear plan. Determine your communications deliverables and major milestones, what resources will be needed, and who will be doing what.

Gather your team. It truly takes a village. Put a team together with the skill sets needed to deliver quality communications on time.

Set expectations. Clearly communicate roles and responsibilities so each team member knows what is expected of them and when.

Determine stakeholders. Know up front who the decision makers are, what they should be reviewing, and when. Get the right people involved at the right times.

Create a schedule. Whether you’re using a simple calendar or a project management tool like Asana, make sure to identify key milestones. It’s also helpful to plan for extra time so you can ensure quality work.

Managing Stakeholders

From HR leadership to board members, key stakeholders can offer great insight that will help elevate your open enrollment materials. It’s important to determine what role each stakeholder plays when reviewing your communications deliverables so you can make the most of their skill sets. Think about who should review and at what stage in the process. Who needs to review a first draft? When should the legal department review? Who should approve the content before it moves to design? Once in design, who should review the nearly complete communication? And who is responsible for final sign-off?

For example, if a senior leader in your organization is known to make a lot of edits or may be sensitive about the images used, provide some possible imagery in advance, and explain the approach you plan to take. That way, you’ll have their buy-in when they see the final document before it goes to print. In doing so, you may avoid substantive changes, when there’s less time to make them, and possible delays in getting your materials to your people.

This goes to show that once stakeholders are confirmed, it’s crucial to communicate deadlines and ensure that review periods are on their calendars. Send reminders in advance so they’re prepared to review. Let reviewers know what their roles are and what to focus on, such as content, wordsmithing, branding, design, or compliance. And make sure you communicate what has been previously reviewed and by whom.

Handling Disruptions

Despite your best-laid plans, a variety of disruptions, like someone not approving images, can waylay your open enrollment communications. It’s important to anticipate and prepare for potential risks, such as:

Scope creep. Scope creep occurs when new work is added that’s beyond an agreed-upon scope (if you’re using an outside vendor) or is beyond what you initially discussed with whomever is developing your materials (such as a colleague from another department). Foster an open dialogue with your communications partners, and have them alert you when a piece is taking more time, money, or resources to finish. That way, you won’t be surprised later when you run out of budget or a colleague is hesitant to partner with your team again.

Budget creep. Budget creep is when a project costs more than what was initially budgeted. To avoid budget creep, it’s vital to start with a realistic financial plan and to regularly monitor expenditures. If you notice that funds are depleting faster than expected, raise the red flag early, and reevaluate how best to move forward.

Communication issues. Missing deadlines, not accomplishing tasks, and low-quality work are all signs of communication issues within a team. To build transparent lines of communication, make sure to stay organized, define everyone’s roles and responsibilities, be encouraging, and communicate frequently. It helps to have regular meetings with well-defined agendas, goals, and action items. Project management tools, such as Asana, can be helpful to keep the team on track and encourage engagement.

Everything doesn’t always go as planned when preparing open enrollment communications. If you expect change while developing your materials, it will help if you remain positive and solve problems effectively. Stay focused on what you’re trying to achieve. Set realistic goals, maintain clear lines of communication, and have the right resources so you can achieve success.

We're proud to work with organizations that value their people. If you want to learn more, we’d love to talk.


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Jen Williams

Jennifer Williams, Project Manager, is a skilled problem solver and relationship builder who is passionate about delivering quality work.