Your employees probably see Open Enrollment (OE) as a normal yearly event to choose their benefits for the next year. But for your HR team, OE is anything but ordinary. It’s always been known as the once-a-year opportunity to show how your organization supports each employee.
It's like the Super Bowl for the HR team, and all of your communication materials are the commercials employees see. Some will be memorable and impactful — while others won't.
Your open enrollment communication timeline and channels can make or break the employee experience. Successful communication will create a benefits culture that sets your organization apart and helps you retain top talent.
So, it’s more important than ever to be innovative when it comes to what benefits you offer and how you offer them.
Expectations on the Rise
Over the past few years, there's been a higher expectation to provide large benefit packages. A reason for that is many employees understand and view their benefits as a way to lessen financial pressures. With things like an uncertain economy, increasing costs, and above-average inflation employee benefit communication is more important than ever. Understanding this before preparing for the open enrollment season is crucial.
Now, let's review our 4-step strategy to help you better meet your employees’ needs and deliver an extraordinary OE experience. You can accomplish this by:
- Going through your past open enrollments
- Focusing your communication
- Establishing a strong benefits culture
- Utilizing technology
Four Ways to Deliver an Extraordinary AE Experience
To innovate your OE strategy, it’s critical to identify what your employees need. Throughout the year, be sure to check which plans and programs are and are not being used. This can help you figure out your return on investment (ROI) with each provider. Be sure to compare your data with other organizations in your industry
To gather this, send out employee surveys and keep up-to-date with new trends. Once you’ve gathered your data, you can make your final benefit decisions for the coming year. From there, you can figure out how you’ll engage and excite your employees.
Consider your cadence. Think beyond the open enrollment process and make benefits a year-round conversation. People want to know what benefits they have throughout the year so they can use them more. Explore opportunities for meaningful engagement and create a calendar of important events, holidays, special days, or meaningful months.
Once you have that, you can use those as key moments to share different information and resources. For example, promote your vendor’s wellbeing programs and resources during Mental Health Month in May. These are great communication templates to have ready to send throughout the year.
Having an attention-grabbing subject line can also help remind employees what benefits they might be missing out on. Building an open enrollment timeline 9 to 12 months will help you plan for the upcoming year. You can do this by prepping email templates, postcards, and gathering any other information you need.
Check your channels. While most employees prefer emails or slack communication, adding some print options may be the right fit. You always want to ensure you're engaging with all your employees. Communication is as much about being ready for anything as it is being able to adopt new technologies as you go. It is also important not to neglect the channels that have been working for you so far.
Some communication channels might be more impactful to different employees across different departments. Sending open enrollment emails to all of your employees might not work for the groups who work primarily in warehouses. Enrollment emails to employees should be educational yet visually engaging.
It's more important than ever to connect with your employees through a mix of digital and sometimes printed channels. Sometimes all it takes is sending an open enrollment reminder in more than one way for someone to catch all of the information they need. A few we love to recommend are text messages, push notifications, online chat features, and videos. Some great in-person options can be, benefit education roadshows and lunch and learns.
Facilitate feedback. There is a large perception gap about benefits satisfaction. In 2023, it was found that 83% of employers say their employees are satisfied with the benefits they receive. However, only 61% of employees have reported they're happy with their benefits in 2023 — the lowest point in the last decade. To enhance your open enrollment experience, you need to know what works and what doesn’t.
During the year, make your communication to employees a two-way street by asking employees for their honest feedback. You want to know how they feel about the benefits offered, the overall enrollment process, and the current communication strategy. From this, you'll get ideas for the future and how to make benefit communication easier for employees.
Identify Your Culture
Drive diversity. When it comes to benefits, one size never fits all. Every employee is in a different life stage. It’s important to offer benefit plans designed to help everyone in the workforce. Wellbeing is a major focus area for employees and candidates. This means organizations are increasing their benefits for family-building, LGBTQ+, and more.
Grasp generational differences. For the first time in history, we have five generations in the workplace. Each generation has their own unique needs, different communication preferences, various comfort levels with technology, and different understanding of their benefits. While creating your benefits strategy and planning for OE, be sure to keep all these factors in mind. Some open enrollment communication examples might include: a short video explaining the benefit changes for Gen Z, while Baby Boomers might prefer a printed postcard with changes highlighted.
Provide access anywhere, anytime. Create a one-stop-shop benefits website designed for easy use. This should have all of your benefit and OE information. Don't be afraid to show what benefits and program offerings are available and where to find answers to questions. The website should be available to partners and dependents as they’re often part of this benefits decision-making process, too. I mean, no one wants to be stuck in the ER searching for their benefits and what they cover.
Employees typically search for what benefits they have when a major life event occurs. There's not just one time of year when things happen to or for people, so why not treat your benefits communication the same way? Making this search simple, visual, and to the point, will make any benefit more accessible.
Teach with tools. Build an emotional connection between your organization and your employees. This sets the tone for OE. People want to be able to relate to others around them, it's just human nature. Be sure to provide tools to help your employees make the best choices by comparing each benefit. You may also consider hosting Virtual Benefits Fairs. This is an engaging experience where employees can explore vendor materials, videos, and other tools from the comfort of their home. Personalized nudges through targeted emails, mailers, or other materials can also help employees get the most out of benefit programs.
By implementing these strategies, you can get a head start on setting yourself apart from other organizations in your industry, exceed employee expectations, retain top talent, and create and AE experience that is anything but ordinary.