Making Open Enrollment the Best Experience for Everyone

The right communication strategy can help make this year’s annual enrollment better than ever. But doing so will require some fresh thinking and creative execution if you are to move the needle in providing true value and meaningful engagement by your employees. Here are three things you can do to make this happen.

Communicate with your employees in the mode they’re most likely to respond to.
Even the most clever and compelling message won’t mean a thing if your employees aren’t reading it. As basic as that might sound, communication has become more complex as the number of ways we speak with each other has increased. That makes it more important than ever to have a multi-tiered, bifurcated strategy to communicate annual enrollment information. Employees may want to receive communication through their home computer, smartphone, company portal or traditional mail. It is critically important to reach each employee through whatever medium they are most comfortable.

But just as it would be foolish and ineffective to rely solely on one generic medium, it is wasteful to utilize all channels for a single employee. Employees differ by age, gender, education, lifestyle and preferences. The key is knowing each employee on an individual basis what they want, where they are looking and what is most likely to bring about a positive response. A recent survey from the National Business Group on Health reported that 95% of employers have failed to assess their employees’ communication preferences. Your annual enrollment will be much more effective by becoming part of the other 5%. Start with asking for their preference this time around.

Use analytical tools to show which plan offers the best value specifically for them.
Plan selection is a different equation for each employee. Between copays, deductibles, past usage and anticipated future usage, there’s no obvious answer to the question, “What plan is best for me this year?” But the answer need not be as complex as the question.

Amazing analytical tools are now available that processes last year’s claims for each individual employee and recalculates them to the new year’s plan designs and offerings, easily showing the individual the bottom line dollar amount of predicted out-of-pocket savings for choosing one plan over another. Experience has shown that many employees switch to right size plan (and then recognize significant savings and satisfaction) when they get this information and use it in their decision making process. Employees without a physician or those dissatisfied with the one they have often need help in finding the physician that is right for them.

Physician finder technologies exist today that provide employees a carefully culled list of in-network choices near their home or workplace, and might include helpful map snapshots. This information is the perfect preventive measure to the “analysis paralysis” of searching extensive plan and physician databases. If you don’t currently offer these tools to your workforce, it is not too soon to start exploring how they can add value to your equation next time around.

Apply predictive analytics to help employees stay engaged with their benefits throughout the year, starting with open enrollment.
Just as annual enrollment is an opportunity for employees to think about the coming year, it is also a chance for employers to look ahead and set expectations for health benefits communication once they make their selections. Employees will get excited about their health benefits and recognize their true value, if you demonstrate how these benefits can help keep them healthy in the coming year.

Toward that end, an increasing number of Fortune 500 companies are leveraging the power of “predictive analytics” to optimize employee engagement and satisfaction with health benefit programs. A program driven by predictive analytics replaces generic, less-effective employee benefits communication with hyper-personalized messages throughout the year, which are tailored to the health, financial and lifestyle needs of each individual.

These messages provide the encouragement employees and their dependents need to take empowered action, such as completing preventive screenings on time or choosing cost-saving, narrow network sites of care. Such engagement reduces wasteful healthcare spending, optimizes health year-round and leads to greater employee satisfaction with their benefits and with you.


This article originally appeared in Employee Benefits News on September 26, 2016. Click here to access the original.