Open enrollment can be a stressful time for HR professionals, but it doesn’t have to be. A little preparation goes a long way. Putting in the time to create clear, engaging communication can work wonder for your employees. Consider the findings from “What Your Employees Think About Your Benefits Communication: Research from Jellyvision Conducted by Harris Poll”, a 2016 survey with some surprising facts:
- Half of employees (49 percent) say making health insurance decisions is always "very stressful" for them.
- Only about one-third of employees (34 percent) claim they pay attention to all of the materials they receive about their company benefits.
- Most employees prefer to receive information about company benefits electronically (62 percent).
- About half describe their company's benefits communication as informative (52 percent) and beneficial (45 percent). Others use more critical language, calling their benefits communication complex (18 percent), disappointing (15 percent), boring (10 percent) or a waste (7 percent).
- Regarding high-deductible health plans, employees used negative terms like "risky" (30 percent) and "disappointing" (19 percent) more frequently than positive terms like "affordable" (18 percent) and "a good value" (17 percent).
When it comes to having a successful open enrollment period, there are a few steps you should take in order to help ensure its success. The secret to having a successful open enrollment period is in the prep work. Benefits communications need to lead employees through the appropriate steps, not lose them along the way. You need to plan ahead in order to simplify your communication and enrollment process.
1. Review last year’s process.
If you’re reading this article, chances are high that you feel there is room for improvement in your OE process. A great way to start is to assess your process from last year. Reviewing last year’s process is the best way to improve this year’s. What went well? What things would you like to do better?
2. Learn what employees want to know about.
You can achieve this by conducting a brief employee survey. Find out if there is anything that confuses them, and highlight that in your materials. On the other hand, if there is a concept they feel comfortable with and have minimal questions about, minimize the amount of coverage that topic gets.
3. Update your materials.
Once you know what your employees want to learn more about, update your promotional materials to reflect that information. Try to conduct your survey at least a few months in advance so you have time to update any materials you provide to your employees as an OE resource.
4. Create a plan to market open enrollment.
Begin promoting your OE week to your employees well in advance so they have time to prepare. In your survey, you should also ask how employees would like to be contacted (email, phone, meeting, etc.) with information regarding open enrollment and benefits.
5. Create goals listing what the company wants to achieve.
You need to have some company goals that are measurable and will enable you to know how effectively your OE initiatives are working. Your company has to decide what metrics it is going to collect and use to measure success. Some ideas for measurable open enrollment goals are:
- Increase enrollment in the company’s consumer-driven health plan by __%
- Get __% of employees saving for retirement
- Engage __% of employees in viewing the wellness program video
6. Utilize different communication channels.
Once you know how your employees would like to be contacted, you can build on this by utilizing multiple types of communication channels. By employing a mix of communication channels, companies can reach the same employee in multiple ways and at multiple times, thus reinforcing key messages. Start by reaching out in the way your employees want most, but diversify your communication methods to reach the most people.
7. Remain current with healthcare regulations.
In this day and age, healthcare legislation is constantly being adjusted to adapt to an ever-changing society. Make sure you keep up with the changes. It is critical to stay up-to-date with all the specifications of the developments that health coverage and other benefits plans have undergone.
8. Be transparent about upcoming changes.
When you find out about changes in healthcare or other benefits regulations, be forthcoming with your employees about them. Open enrollment is also a prime opportunity to enhance employee engagement—employees with engage with employers who show that they care enough to communicate about any changes that will affect them.
9. Simplify all instructions.
It’s been established that benefits and open enrollment can be a complicated topic for employees to grasp. Your task is to simplify the explanations as much as possible. Employees don’t want to be given an endless supply of options; they want to know what they are supposed to do. So, all communication materials and messages, from handouts to video content to social media to presentations, need to clearly tell employees what they are supposed to do. This will bring clarity and simplicity to the OE process.
10. Consider your employee demographics.
Millennial employees are supposed to comprise nearly half of the workforce by 2020. Are your OE benefit offerings meeting their unique needs? For instance, relatively young and healthy Millennials may not have much knowledge of or experience with health insurance, nor are they likely to be interested in life insurance or retirement planning. You need to recognize where they are now, and help them to understand how the benefit offerings will help them in the future.
Implement these steps well before your open enrollment period, so that when the time comes both you and your employees will be prepared and able to make great decisions about benefits with ease.
So, what about you? What strategies have you implemented at your company to enhance employee engagement during open enrollment?