Open enrollment communication is essential to get right. After a year of recession fears, layoffs, and high competition for top talent, your employee benefits can make a big difference in attracting and retaining talent. Not to mention, as a key part of your employee value proposition, benefits can also help ensure higher levels of employee wellbeing. To help you effectively communicate about open enrollment this year, I’m sharing my top tips on how to prepare for open enrollment.
What is Benefits Open Enrollment?
Open enrollment is the period of time each year where employees are able to select their benefits or make updates to their current elections. This is typically in reference to health insurance as well as life insurance policies and 401k plans.
This period of year is important because it’s the only time employees can change their benefits or enroll in them other than a “qualifying life event” such as having a child or getting married.
That puts the pressure on us internal communication and HR professionals to make sure we properly communicate and set employees up for success.
Understanding OE in the Modern Workplace
Employee open enrollment can be very stressful for communications and HR teams.
Why does everyone wait until the last minute to change their benefits? Why do so many people ask for extensions?! Did they get the emails? Didn’t they see the signs posted in the break rooms, hallways, and elevators?! Didn’t they check out the intranet where the reminder has been displayed for months?!
The reality is:
- 78% of workers say that employer-provided health insurance has an impact on whether or not they stay at their company.
- Only 19% of employees understand their benefits.
- SHRM found that about 90% of the employees who don’t understand their benefits spend less than an hour enrolling in their benefits.
It’s possible that your employees don’t really understand the value of the benefits package available to them. And that can be a big source of turnover. So, preparing for open enrollment and shifting your communication strategy can make a big difference.
What to Consider When Planning Open Enrollment Employee Communication
- Get the messages in front of ALL employees—don’t forget your frontline workers! The effectiveness of common ways of communicating OE, like trickle-down communications and signage, are hard to quantify. Do you have an employee communication channel that reaches everyone? Email might be a solution for deskbound workers, but what about those employees who don’t have company email addresses? Do you have ways to get information to them and know they actually received it?
- Give employees easier access to benefits information and resources that help them understand how to update or enroll in benefits. Don’t assume everyone understands what they need to do or what is even available to them through company-sponsored benefits. Create simple materials that show employees what’s in it for them. For example, hold a webinar or Q&A session that is available to all employees or create short videos that answer frequently asked questions from previous years.
- Communicate early, and follow up regularly. There will always be employees who enroll right away…and there will also be those that wait until the eleventh hour. Start communicating about open enrollment one month in advance and schedule regular reminders, increasing your cadence as the deadline approaches.
Try Something New
We can sometimes fall into the habit of using the same strategy each year for annual campaigns like benefits enrollment. But the workplace is changing rapidly, and so should your approach to HR communication:
- Make sure you’re reaching everyone. If you can’t reach all employees with your existing communications channels, there are ways to figure out why your strategies have not worked in the past or to improve the process at your organization. Consider conducting a channel assessment to determine which communication channels are effective and if they reach all audiences.
- It’s critical to start with objectives before planning your OE comms. What’s the goal this year? What were the pain points last year? Are you losing employees due to them not feeling valued—can that become central to your open enrollment campaign? To succeed here, you’ll need to ensure your tools provide you with analytics and data to know what OE content is working and what isn’t.
- Have you asked your employees about what you could have done differently? About what they don’t understand? Or about the information they wish you provided? Asking people what they think or need goes a long way.
Most importantly, recognize that open enrollment is an employee communications effort. This is a great opportunity for HR and Comms to work together to make a big impact on your business.
About the Author
Amy Jenkins is theEMPLOYEEapp’s Director of Client Strategy & Success. With over ten years of experience working in internal communication, Amy helps our clients create mobile communication strategies that get results.
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