Open enrollment is one of the most important times of the year for organizations; however, complex and ongoing changes to health care and retirement plans can create confusion that leads to poor choices. With proper planning, employers can develop communication strategies to help employees make the best selections for their wellness and future financial security.
Communication is key to a successful open enrollment season. And when it comes to developing a benefits communications strategy that will engage your employees, creating messages that resonate with your audience is critical to that success. Employee personas are the foundation for any successful communication campaign. They provide stakeholders with a clear picture and a shared understanding of the target audience. Because your employees range from college graduates who have just started their first job, to mid-career managers with young children, to senior leaders approaching retirement, having a specific communication plan for each segment of the workforce will help to deliver more-relevant information. Employees will be better prepared to make—and feel more confident about—their benefits decisions.
It’s important to ensure that you provide employees with more-personalized guidance during the process. The HR Magazine article 6 Simple Ways to Improve Open Enrollment cites an employer that expanded its open enrollment period to ensure all employee questions about options were answered before workers made selections. “By expanding open enrollment to seven weeks last year, up from two weeks in previous years, Veterans United Home Loans in Columbia, Mo., made 300 slots available to employees for individual 20-minute sessions to discuss their unique benefits questions and concerns with HR. The company had introduced HDHP [high-deductible health plan] insurance options with a [health savings account], and some leaders were concerned that people might avoid choosing those plans simply because they did not understand them.” The company was uncertain how many workers would sign up for the sessions; however, every slot was filled.
Can employers leverage technology for open enrollment? Absolutely. Decision-support technology, including those using artificial intelligence (AI) and often integrated into enrollment apps and online platforms, is transforming the open-enrollment experience and can assist HR in better understanding the needs and personal preferences of employees." Greater insight into employee behaviors allows employers to push more-relevant messages to employees and help them make more-informed benefits decisions. Technology can also help HR with many of the burdensome administrative tasks associated with open enrollment. For instance, chatbots are being used to answer frequently asked questions.
Think about how your company managed last year’s open enrollment. What were your biggest challenges? What were the most-asked questions from employees? Where was your communication effort successful, and where did it fall short?
Even if you’re now in the midst of open enrollment, it’s not too late to tweak your approach to ensure that your employees are comfortable with and confident about their benefits decisions.
To learn more about how to make your open enrollment season a success visit SHRM's Open Enrollment Guide & Resources page.