Mastering Open Enrollment Communication

The end of the year is coming up quickly…are you prepared to clear your to-do list let alone make sure everyone in the organization is ready for open enrollment? 

Clear, specific communication is a cornerstone of open enrollment. Following some specific steps can make the process smooth and employees happy, educated, and in control of their decisions. 

Before Open Enrollment

If you haven’t already started communicating open enrollment information, it’s time to start (and catch up). Let’s not delay any longer. 

HR professionals need to provide employees with all the information they need to make an informed decision about their benefits package for the coming year. 

Before open enrollment begins: 

Review previous communications. See what worked for you last year, the year before, etc. If you’re new in your role, are there dashboards or metrics stored with other departments that you can use to help you determine the best communication strategy? If sending emails on Tuesdays worked better than Fridays last year, start with that schedule. 

Develop key messaging. Work with your benefits administrator to gather all benefits options and determine a messaging strategy. What has changed from last year? Are there new offerings the company is presenting that haven’t been offered before—or even better are in response to employee demand? Plan talking points around those and consider using FAQs to address common concerns quickly. Your benefits administrator is a great resource for answers to FAQs. 

Customize communication. Communication is often more successful when it’s tailored to different employee segments. We’ll talk about this more in the next section, but think of the variety of ways you can talk to employees of different generations. (Looking for more ways to keep the multigenerational needs in consideration? Read that post next.)

Gather resources. If you haven’t started planning yet—whether you’re new to the role or other business issues took your time—this could be the hardest part. Gather all printed materials, digital platforms, and support staff to see what needs updated or is ready to use. Your benefits partner again can help you succeed at this step. 

Are you required to share compliance information? Explain any legal requirements and compliance details, such as the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), and how these affect employees. Offering health and wellness programs? Promote new fitness incentives or telehealth options while including specifics about how they work and what they cost for full transparency. If applicable, provide information on Flexible Spending Accounts (FSAs) and Health Savings Accounts (HSAs) and how employees can contribute.

During Open Enrollment

The time is coming up quickly (maybe it’s already here as you read this), but this is where your communication strategy comes into play. 

Vary communication channels. Remember: Not everyone will read everything you show them and people absorb information in many different ways. That’s why the first part of your plan is to vary communication channels. 

Emails, printed materials, small group meetings, office hours, webinars, and utilizing other management leaders all should be considered as good ways to disperse information. 

Set alerts. Not only do you want to communicate information on the benefits and changes, but you need to keep everyone informed of deadlines. Send reminders regularly as the enrollment deadline approaches, and make sure you clearly—and often—communicate the last date to make changes. 

Make it digestible. It’s crucial to catch employees’ attention and present the key message immediately before they lose interest. Break out the most important information into small, easy to understand pieces and utilize written, video, and audio formats as much as possible. These are also content pieces you can use to keep open enrollment interest all year round

Use real-world examples. Don’t share personal information or examples, but stories about how benefits could be used are easier to follow, remember, and understand than a lot of HR and technical jargon. Most people do not fully understand insurance terms, but they do know that having access to telemedicine when a child has a fever in the middle of the night and that  it would cost them just a copay is easier to follow. 

Personalize communication if possible. This is very helpful, though not exclusive, to some older employees, as we’ve discussed previously. It also can help employees focus on getting the process completed quickly, accurately, and on time. 

After Open Enrollment

It’s OK if you’re already thinking about what happens after the open enrollment period ends. But that doesn’t mean you stop talking about it. Quite the opposite. 

We talked before about the importance of engaging employees on open enrollment year-round. Putting this into practice now will help you next year when planning comes around. 

An easy-to-implement communication strategy for the post-enrollment period starts with following up with employees. Not only should you remind them of choices or deadlines, share information to make sure they’re using health and wellness benefits to their full advantage, for example. 

These follow-ups also are a great way to measure benefits usage as the year goes on. It’s valuable information to have for leadership on building a successful benefits strategy. 

Feedback is a part of that, too. Surveys or focus groups work well to understand how things went during open enrollment and then how benefits are working. Are they what people wanted? Could small changes next time yield better usage and employee satisfaction? We have a great survey you can use to start gathering employee feedback

That evaluation will set you up when you start back at the beginning of this blog post in several months. Looking at metrics from this year in several months will be a great starting point. See if you met your goals and get going for next year.

Want More?

It’s a lot to take in. There are good resources we have available to help. From our benefits administration offerings to resources like our Employee Open Enrollment Survey or a great Open Enrollment Checklist to guide you through this season, we’re here to help.