Take a moment to consider why the open enrollment period is important. To employees, it’s important because it gives them flexibility in choosing their benefit strategies and deciding whether to upgrade or reduce various coverages. The ability to make such changes can have a real impact on a family’s household budget. For instance, an employee who had previously signed up for a plan that requires him or her to pay a large monthly premium can choose other options if that payment stresses the budget.
From the company’s standpoint, it’s an opportunity to market the benefits the HR staff has spent many weeks or even months investigating, vetting and negotiating with insurance carriers and others. The HR team spends substantial time and effort to make sure benefit plans meet employee needs. Furthermore, they work hard to assure that the benefits they offer are consistent with the company’s culture and goals.
Despite the fact that open enrollment can be a stressful time for employees trying to decide upon the best options for their families, it can also be a time where the company can provide education regarding available benefit plans, clarifying how they meet varying employee needs. Further, it’s a time during which the company can use its benefits offerings to build morale among the workforce.
Communication and Marketing
Begin by notifying employees in advance that open enrollment will take place between specific dates. The concept of open enrollment is not universally understood, so be sure to explain what it means for your employees, and then give reminders as the opening day approaches. Critically, employees must understand that they can make only changes to their plans during open enrollment or with a qualifying event — like marriage, divorce, the birth of an infant, adoption, death and others.
Make sure your communication regarding enrollment and benefits shows the value those benefits will deliver. For instance, you might begin by explaining the buying power the company achieves through group benefits vs. individual policies. You will want to summarize the various plans the company offers in easy, “bite-sized” summary form. Depending upon your company’s objectives in offering benefits, that summary might include not only health insurance and other core coverages, but also the voluntary benefits (pet insurance, optical and dental insurance, cancer insurance, etc.) and lifestyle benefits that augment core benefit offerings an enrich employees’ lives.
Communicate Through Multiple Channels
Today, technology has provided many ways to communicate with one another. Be sure to talk with employees through several channels.
Mobile phone communications are increasingly growing, this also makes it crucial to allow enrollment via small screens. While not everyone may have access to a computer or laptop, almost every employee has a smartphone. Allowing employees to access their enrollment via smalls screens will likely draw their interest and make it that much easier.
Printed material lets each employee take the details home to discuss with a significant other. Posting general information on Facebook and other social media can be effective in reaching employees who rely on and enjoy that channel. While you wouldn’t want to post the fine details on social media, you can use it to keep people involved and thinking about the upcoming open enrollment period. A company intranet is another way you can inform and educate employees, and because its content is available only to employees, you can delve deeper into the details surrounding each of your offerings.
Additionally, you can use SMS, a company messaging system, calendar invites, posters, DYK (Did You Know), newsletters, mobile push alerts, and other forms of messaging around the office and in the field. Your insurance carrier or broker may be able to provide marketing management, strategy and planning as well as videos to educate employees on the products. Genius Avenue supports our carrier and broker partners by providing internal marketing and communication tools that ease the enrollment process and highlight features and benefits that compel adoption. Using the many channels available to inform and educate people helps engage them in the open enrollment cycle.
Personalize Your Offerings
The 21st-century technology available to us allows conveying messages that promote the open enrollment process in dozens of ways. However, talking to employees isn’t nearly as effective as talking with them. Take time to personalize your message to each group of people.
For example, you might deliver a different message to single employees rather than married, because those two groups want different things from their benefits package. Look at ways you can “slice and dice” the employee universe into sub-groups. Talk with each group with a message crafted for each one. We all want to feel that the company we work for acknowledges and respects our personal concerns.
Setting aside time to meet with employees face to face is the best way to understand their concerns. Be sure that you schedule a time to meet with your people in several personal group meetings so that you can address the specific concerns of each group.
A couple of simple examples: Single employees may not want to pay for maternity care as part of their health insurance, but married employees in a certain age range will. People with pets may want to learn about coverages available for their animals, while others will not. The more time you take to analyze the diverse interests of your employee base, the better job you can do in satisfying their unique perspectives. And, of course, that results in more engagement during the open enrollment cycle.
Use Additional Resources
Finally, be sure to use all the resources available to you. Besides the many communication channels outlined above, don’t be shy about asking your insurance carriers and brokers to help your employees better understand their options and make the best choices. Have your outside resource people set aside time to answer questions. Look for support outside of your HR department. The more you can do to help your employees, the greater engagement in the open enrollment process you’ll achieve.
These guidelines can help you make your annual open enrollment a success for both your people and the company. Moreover, when you value your employees by helping them make their best choices for benefits, you’re building an organization that will attract new employees and that will retain and motivate your current workforce. What outcome could be better than that?