Your Open Enrollment Communications Plan

The end of the year may still seem far away, but with the change of season and the holidays ahead, it will be here before we know it. As an employer and a health care provider, you know what that means: open enrollment is just around the corner.

Open enrollment presents an opportunity for employees to sign up for, withdraw from, or make changes to their medical, dental, vision, disability, and life insurance plans. It’s also a chance for you to consider modifying the benefits you offer your staff, especially if you haven’t done so in several years. It should be no surprise that providing satisfactory health benefits to employees is valuable for them – as well as your business.

Regardless of the level of coverage you plan to offer, a solid communications strategy will be appreciated by employees, allow them to make better decisions for their own health, and make life easier for your HR or front office administrative staff.

Follow these tips for an effective open enrollment communications approach.

Prioritize your employee health care plan

Your employee health care plan should not be an afterthought; it should take time and great care to assess your options and determine what fits your staff’s needs. The same goes for your employees making their selections.

Nearly half of employees (49%) spend 30 minutes or less reviewing benefits materials before open enrollment. Rather than bombarding employees with a lot of robust information a couple of weeks before elections must be made, start communications as soon as possible to allow them to digest and understand the information over time and encourage them to make informed decisions about their benefits.

Send regular communications from the initial message throughout the months leading up to open enrollment to motivate your team to continue educating themselves and make the process less confusing and overwhelming.

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Consider your employees' benefit needs

Who are your employees? They likely span various generations, family structures, and demographics that come with different coverage needs and requirements. Take these into account when it comes to what you communicate. For instance, an older employee close to retirement may be especially interested in life insurance, while a younger newlywed may want more information about maternity or paternity leave. A one-size-fits-all approach won’t be effective; if an employee feels you aren’t speaking their language, they are less likely to pay attention and retain critical information about their benefits.

To truly grasp what your employees want, gather feedback about previous open enrollment periods. Ask them about the following:

  • Preferred communication methods
  • Elements of the process they found confusing in previous years
  • Elements of the process they found helpful or beneficial in previous years
  • What is missing from the process that could make it simpler

Use multiple forms of communication

Just as your staff has different needs when it comes to benefits, they also learn and absorb facts differently – some visually, some auditorily, and some through reading. Certain employees may want as much data as possible while others are satisfied with one informational meeting.

For this reason, present communications in as many formats as you can, including:

  • In-person meetings
  • Informational webinars
  • Videos and infographics
  • Physical paper packets
  • Internal emails
  • Phone hotline for questions and concerns

The more lines of communication you can use, the more prepared and confident your employees will feel when enrolling in benefits. Obviously, you’ll want to stay within budget, so select the channels that will appeal to staff while keeping costs in check.

Provide enough information, but keep it simple

Insurance information can quickly become confusing, so keep communications simple. Map out the process for employees, assuming they know nothing about health insurance and how it works. Exhaustive explanations may lose people quickly, so instead, provide checklists and support tools to clarify the details in a more straightforward manner.

For those on your team that may want more in-depth knowledge, have more thorough information readily available.

Providing benefits for your employees improves satisfaction and retention levels. But a clunky, complicated approach to open enrollment communications will leave them confused and frustrated.

Start strategizing now to help your staff make educated decisions and feel confident as health care consumers.

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