It’s never too early to start thinking about open enrollment – specifically how you can improve your strategy and get your employees more engaged. Success depends in large part on your internal communications strategy.
Employees need help understanding the value of their benefits. Less than half of employees are likely to renew benefits such as life and disability in their next enrollment cycle, according to research from MetLife. Some of the challenges employees cite is that they can’t navigate all of the information, don’t have the time or energy to dig in, or they don’t know who to ask.
Open enrollment should be a strategic HR initiative. And a key component of this initiative is a communications plan that outlines the strategy behind your open enrollment activities. Technology plays an important role in supporting these activities – contributing to a better user experience and making information more accessible, consumable, and personalized.
When crafting your communications strategy, it’s important to understand the questions employees may have, where they’re most likely to access and consume benefits-related information, and how to simplify the information into easily digestible pieces.
Here are three tips for using technology to create a successful open enrollment communications strategy.
Benefits can be overwhelming for employees. Your communication plan should aim to make benefits information clear, concise, and relevant. In addition to providing a summary of benefits and coverage in open enrollment materials, your organization should outline how the Affordable Care Act (ACA) provisions impact employees. Is your organization changing its health care rates? Does the coverage meet minimum essential coverage parameters?
As you answer these questions, be sure to avoid small print, health care jargon, and complicated descriptions. Instead, make it easy for employees to compare your plans with offerings available through the exchanges, and be sure to highlight the value of your benefits.
Keep your workforce and your user experience in mind as you share this information. For example, how can you package relevant information in a way that is simple to consume on mobile as well as on desktop?
Also consider the cadence of your communications. There’s value in sending regular communications instead of a single message at the beginning of open enrollment and assuming that all employees will take action at that time. Use your communications to highlight important dates and information, or share ways that employees can have their questions answered.
It’s important for employers to be a partner through the open enrollment process, and use your communications to facilitate this. Also keep in mind that benefits communications don’t have to start and stop with the open enrollment period. Marketing and promoting the value of benefits year-round will keep employees engaged and aware.
Equip your employees with the information they need, in a format they can understand, to make decisions without having to call someone, send an email, or access a help line for basic questions.
In terms of formats, as noted above, think about the needs of the modern workforce. Take advantage of mobile apps where possible in place of archaic paper-based pamphlets. Increase the accessibility of your benefits information by taking advantage of message formats not traditionally associated with HR, such as text messages, websites, social media platforms and smartphone apps.
Do you have a dedicated support line in place? Are you providing relevant and top-of-mind FAQs in your initial communications? Do you have a dedicated inbox to field and respond to employee inquiries? Consider additional resource channels for employees to ask questions when and where it’s most convenient for them. For example, consider incorporating chatbots as one way to answer questions in real-time.
Make it easy for employees to get help by providing a frictionless experience. For example, if you’re using your company intranet to post information or to provide assistance, remember that some company intranet sites aren’t easily accessed when employees aren’t connected to the work server.
One-on-one sessions are also helpful for employees to get answers to their health plan questions. According to a Colonial Life survey, 97% of employees who participate in benefits counselling say it improves their understanding of benefits. By providing guidance to employees, you can personalize the enrollment process and help employees pick a plan that meets their needs.
Leading companies use AI tools and software to personalize the enrollment process. These benefits decision support tools allow employers to set pre-defined eligibility qualifiers – that is, employees are only presented with the plans and options for which they qualify.
Much like shopping online and comparing the prices and features of different products, these tools also allow employees to do a direct cost comparative analysis of the available plans. Not only can employees make more informed decisions with information from these tools, but they can also compare in real-time and in context.