Open enrollment is fast approaching, and you’re hoping it will go off without a hitch. Perhaps you’re aiming to promote a new child care benefit or explain that health plan options have changed due to rising costs. Whatever your goals may be, formulate a strong communications strategy now with these pro tips for HR professionals.
How To Ensure Open Enrollment Success
Here are five tips to help make your open enrollment communication strategy successful.
1. Invest in Education
“I completely understand my healthcare benefits” is probably not something you’ll hear from any employee. Health care and insurance can be confusing (even for the HR professional). Because of this, employees frequently avoid making changes during the open enrollment window.
It’s an employer’s job to ensure employees have all the tools necessary to make informed decisions by the deadline.
Plan and execute a benefits education program with offerings that that suit your organization, such as:
- Personal consultations with experts
- One-on-one meetings with HR representatives
Ideally, you can repurpose these educational materials with minor tweaks as benefits change, so you don’t have to reinvent the wheel each cycle.
Although it seems like more planning now, proper education will save a lot of headaches down the road. These educational opportunities will demystify the process, make employees feel more confident in their decision-making, and boost open enrollment participation.
2. Be Transparent About Consequences
To get higher enrollment participation, employees need to understand what happens if they miss the open enrollment deadline. By communicating these consequences, employees will be more likely to take the deadline seriously. It’s not meant to be a scare tactic; it’s simply the reality of what could happen.
These potential consequences could include:
- Not receiving any benefits (if enrolling for the first time)
- Dependents getting dropped or not added
- Lapses in coverage
These scenarios can have a significant financial impact on the employee that they need to be made aware of.
In a nutshell, a company’s open enrollment communication strategy may be the only source of information employees receive, so it’s vital to supply them with plenty of information and support.
3. Go Mobile
We’ve discussed what to communicate, but what is the best distribution method? Email is widely used for benefits communication, even though it’s often ignored or doesn’t reach the entire workforce.
If employees aren’t using a computer, there’s a good chance they’re on their smartphones. If your benefits administration platform offers it, promoting open enrollment via their mobile app is a great way to increase participation.
Companies without an employee software platform can opt to use third-party apps such as Slack. These will allow you to message your employees directly about benefits information.
There are many more ways to improve employee benefits communication with a mobile or non-desk workforce. For example, busy frontline employees will appreciate frequent open enrollment communication in bite-sized chunks they can read on the go.
4. Lead With Popular FAQs
How can you boost participation numbers for Open Enrollment? Put extra effort into special communication channels and strategies to reach employees that regularly fail to open their benefits communication messages.
Often, the hardest part of the Open Enrollment process for employees is taking the first step. If employees don’t open the first few messages, they likely won’t see future reminders.
Employees might not be opening messages because they are intimidated by the Open Enrollment process or don’t know what it involves. One way to engage these hard-to-reach employees is to lead with a frequently asked question such as:
- If I choose to waive coverage, do I still need to enroll?
- How can I find out what my coverage and benefits are?
- How can I change my health care plan or add dependents?
By reaching out to employees who are lagging in open enrollment participation, you can optimize your communication strategy and improve it for the future.
5. Ask for Feedback to Increase Engagement
Another way to boost enrollment participation is to ask employees:
- What information do they want?
- How do they want to receive it?
- What will encourage them to take action?
They may prefer receiving information in a different way than you’re providing. Or, they may have follow-up questions that should be addressed during feedback periods.
Employee surveys are a great way to clarify benefits options and the open enrollment process. Employee surveys demonstrate that you’re dedicated to making the process as convenient as possible, potentially reducing the number of employees who miss open enrollment.
Best Practices for Open Enrollment Communications
Clear, concise open enrollment communication enables employees to make informed decisions. Here are a few essential rules for making that happen:
- Avoid jargon whenever possible or explain terminology with supplementary resources.
- Remind employees that any changes to life circumstances may impact coverage choices.
- Use visuals and written methods for explaining open enrollment (charts, graphs, lists, etc.).
- Illustrate benefits choices and decisions with real-life examples.
- Offer side-by-side comparisons between different plans.
Although employees are responsible for managing their own benefits package, companies can go a long way in reducing confusion and boosting participation during the open enrollment period.
The Best Communication Channels for Open Enrollment
How a company executes its open enrollment communication strategy is just as important as the information being delivered. Why? Because some communication channels are more effective for open enrollment than others.
A 2020 report found that before the pandemic, the most common communication channels for open enrollment were:
- Email (79%)
- Internal websites (74%)
- On-site meetings (60%)
Other channels included mailing print materials and placing signs in the workplace.
For workforces that have gone remote during the pandemic, on-site meetings have been replaced by virtual meetings and webinars.
Another consideration is around 80% of the global workforce that consists of non-desk employees. Non-desk employees often don’t have access to company email, and they certainly do not work in front of a computer all day. And considering that many frontline workers are located across different locations, on-site meetings and signage aren’t necessarily reliable means of communication either.
The best channels for open enrollment communication:
- Are accessible for all employees, including non-desk workers
- Overcome language barriers
- Allow employees to ask questions
- Are traceable and allow employers to track which employees have received information