Open enrollment is underway and will likely run through mid-December. Helping employees select the right health insurance and voluntary benefits takes a lot of work, especially with the continuation of a relatively large remote workforce. There’s lots of information, confusing terms, and various plans employees can enroll in. You’re introducing materials, answering questions about copayments, deductibles, and network providers, and helping compare programs and costs.
As you continue your mission to help employees compare plans and costs and access their current health care needs, it’s important to be proactive during open enrollment to maximize buy-in and improve engagement.
Here are six tips (that you will actually use) to help successfully manage open enrollment.
Communicate early and often about open enrollment
Ongoing communications is the most critical strategy during the open enrollment season. Without it, you’re setting yourself up to fail. Employees need explanations, instructions, and reminders related to enrollment—and all of that begins with communication.
Your communications strategy should:
- Diversify your communication channels to include emails, webpages, intranet sites, communications platforms (Slack, Teams), and digital navigation platforms.
- Use employees’ preferred channels to send messages and reminders (text, email, push notifications).
- Automate and personalize your efforts with data-driven messages to encourage timely enrollment.
- Bring benefits to life through storytelling with videos and other content that shares employee stories about the power of benefits.
- Share and re-share open enrollment and benefits information with employees before open enrollment begins.
Educate employees and your team
Confusion is the enemy of engagement. If employees don’t understand something, it’s human nature to just tune out. When you help employees understand the benefits offered and how to enroll, you eliminate confusion and help ensure they’ll make informed decisions for their families and complete the enrollment process.
Questions often arise during open enrollment regarding benefits and options. It’s vital that your entire HR team has an accurate and uniform understanding of your benefits, so that all employees receive the same answer for the same question.
Plus, high-quality, generous benefits are a great selling point for any organization. Employees who understand the actual value of their benefits may be less inclined to leave.
When formulating your education plan:
- Create a detailed list of benefits and enrollment-related topics like benefits terms, how benefits work, and step-by-step enrollment instructions. Consider a digital brochure that’s more engaging and easy to read.
- Consolidate educational resources in a central library for employees.
- Provide information on navigating the enrollment process, such as accessing websites, signing up for online webinars or meetings, using your enrollment platform, etc.
- Provide learning tools for all types of learners, including visual, auditory, and reading.
- Use varied resources like pamphlets, videos, podcasts, webinars, and charts.
Communicate benefits all year long
From before open enrollment begins to well after it’s complete, HR teams are inundated with employee questions and issues. By communicating with employees about benefits throughout the year, you can increase enrollment, reduce the number of questions, improve the employee experience, and perhaps alleviate some of the pressure during these hectic weeks.
Opportunities for year-round outreach may include:
- Following the start of the plan year, send employees a “what to expect” benefits reminder digital packet detailing any network changes, ID card information, benefit support sites and tools, etc.
- Send data-driven, personalized messages to employees about life events that may impact their benefit eligibility or choices, such as marriage or the birth of a child.
- Schedule personalized reminders about benefits that are unused or underused to encourage enrollment at their next opportunity.
- Announce new programs and services.
- Survey employees on current and desired benefits, and share those results (and any action you’re taking as a result) as appropriate.
- Provide a total compensation statement to remind employees of their benefits and highlight the additional value their benefits bring to their overall financial package.
Bring clarity to the open enrollment process
The need to provide employees with clear and straightforward guidance may seem obvious, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t take effort. As a benefits expert, there’s jargon and acronyms you use daily that may confuse some of your employees. Even when you think you’re keeping things simple, confusion can creep in for employees.
To help clarify benefit options and the enrollment process, you should:
- Keep it simple. Create resources that are easy to read, with short sentences, bulleted lists, and step-by-step instructions.
- When employees sense they should know the meaning of something and don’t, they often won’t ask. When you use benefit terms like ‘HSA,’ ‘coinsurance,’ or ‘deductible,’ define them—whether a quick explanation in a meeting or a link to the definition in a document.
- Ask for the help of employee volunteers within your organization to review your enrollment materials for clarity.
- Survey employees following open enrollment to learn what, if anything, was confusing or unclear.
Get personalization right
Personalizing the enrollment experience is a powerful way to improve engagement and enrollment. After all, every employee’s benefits needs are different and showing you understand an employee’s unique situation makes them far more likely to engage and enroll.
To connect with employees on a personal level during enrollment, you can:
- Enlist managers to discuss any enrollment questions or concerns during employee one-on-ones. If they can’t answer specific questions, they can facilitate getting them answered.
- Provide enrollment information tailored to specific employees, such as relevant point solutions, along with a summary of current, unused, and underused benefits.
- Avoid mass messaging that can disengage employees. For example, don’t send information that talks about an upcoming retirement benefits meeting to ineligible employees.
- Data-driven, automated messaging is a powerful way to personalize communication and improve engagement without a lot of heavy lifting on your part. And this goes for every phase of the employee journey, not just during open enrollment.
Employee feedback encouraged
You might be an open enrollment rockstar, but there’s always room for improvement. And getting employee feedback is one of the best ways to do that. Reach out to ask what’s working—and what isn’t—to help streamline processes and strengthen resources, and help identify additional benefits to consider. Plus, it demonstrates to employees that you’re not only listening, but also trying to create a better employee experience for them.
Consider these ways you can gather feedback during open enrollment:
- Encourage employees to ask questions during enrollment meetings and webinars and conduct quick surveys at the end of every session.
- Provide a feedback button on your enrollment site that allows users to send a message with comments and suggestions to be reviewed and acted upon as appropriate.
- Gather any questions you’re repeatedly hearing and create a detailed FAQ document to share in enrollment announcements, and prominently feature it on your enrollment site.
- Conduct a post-enrollment survey to assess the enrollment process and identify areas for improvement.
Open enrollment is a complex challenge. You may have a “great benefits package,” but if you don’t boost employee engagement and business value through enrollment, your employees may lose coverage for themselves or their loved ones or be stuck on a plan for the next year that isn’t what they need. The more you can create a buzz about open enrollment, the more successful you will be.
Are you ready to learn more about overcoming open enrollment challenges and streamlining the process with employees? Download our open enrollment toolkit, which provides 13 tips to knock your open enrollment out of the park, ten can’t-miss steps to hosting a virtual open enrollment, and a two minute, 11-question post-enrollment survey.