Open enrollment packs many communication challenges into a short window of time. Any HR professional can tell you it’s made extra difficult because employees don’t have a baseline understanding of their benefits. And that sets them up for confusion and disappointment throughout the year. In our Employee Benefits Insights Survey, 40% of employees told us they’d avoided seeking medical care because they didn’t understand their coverage.
So, yes, your messages at this time of year have a lot to accomplish. They must educate employees, get them to select benefits, and give them information that will help them and their families next year.
Read on for our definitive guide to open enrollment communication including a link to templates, guides, and resources essential to surviving this season.
What Do My Open Enrollment Communications Need to Cover?
First, think about your goals. Your first priority is to encourage action: you need your employees to go through the enrollment process with as few snafu’s as possible. They should be able to easily enroll their spouses and dependents, too.
From there, the next step in developing your communications is to consider what you want to happen after OE. Are you hoping that employees will understand benefits better and send fewer requests to your benefits team? Do you want to engage more spouses or educate adult dependents about their benefits? Maybe your goal is simply to increase utilization or employee satisfaction.
Laying these goals out at the beginning of your open enrollment communications planning is essential to focusing your efforts. After all, your time isn’t unlimited.
No matter your goals, your employee benefits communications should cover the basics:
- when to enroll in your employee benefits plan
- how enrollment works (step-by-step)
- how to enroll spouses or dependents (step-by-step)
- any important changes to your plan or benefits offerings that employees should be aware of this year
Introducing Plan Design Changes in Your Communications
Changing your plan design can be jarring for employees, especially because most don’t understand the basics of their insurance plan. Explain these changes using plain language (we’ve given an example in the template available below). Don’t forget that employees may be starting from scratch, and that understanding benefits design takes time.
A move to a new broker, benefits administrator or enrollment portal might also change the process. If things look different this year, tell employees exactly how.
It’s also a good idea to consider including an open enrollment FAQ. Ask members of your department what questions have come up throughout the year, as well as what they’ve been hearing leading up to open enrollment.
Above all, remember that your open enrollment communications need to be straightforward enough to cut through the noise of a crowded inbox. When in doubt about your communications to employees, remember, simple is usually best.
Building Your Plan for Open Enrollment and Benefits Communications
Your open enrollment communications could include traditional printed materials like a benefits booklet or printed fliers, but in an increasingly remote work environment, it’s a good idea to turn to digital communications for employees, as well. As you build your OE plan, consider how you’ll approach each of the following elements.
Improve Your Benefits Presentation
Rolling out the new year’s benefits might start with an employee benefit presentation. A benefits presentation is part one of your effective year-round employee benefits communication strategy, but a presentation can catapult your benefits utilization and give your employees something to remember when they need their benefits the most.
You certainly don’t have to use the same formula from year to year. In fact, we recommend you don’t. This year:
- Keep slide text minimal — short and sweet works well.
- Maintain the look and feel of your brand – keep employees engaged by applying your style guide to your benefits presentation
- Use humor — Studies show humor helps with recall.
- Smile, pause, use hands, slow down
Make Your Employee Benefits Communication Emails Better
Like your employee benefits presentation, your open enrollment email campaign could probably use an update. To keep the vital information in your emails from falling off the map, you must revisit them from year to year.
Simple tweaks like improving your subject line, cutting the length of your email, and hitting the right conversational tone can make a world of difference. Above all, make sure to proofread your emails.
Leverage the Latest Technology for Benefits Communication
As you consider how to effectively communicate with employees about open enrollment, try switching things up. Consider the demographics of your employee base and build your education campaign around their needs.
- If you’re speaking to remote knowledge workers, it’s likely that some of your open enrollment communications will take place over Zoom, Teams, or another video platform. Make time for a virtual Q&A during presentations, test understanding with polling features, and don’t forget to follow up with details across platforms like Slack.
- For a rural or mobile workforce, virtual sessions might not be enough. The way to reach this group and their spouses might be through a combination of a couple emails and mailers sent to their home. Don’t forget that employees of every demographic use smartphones. On that note …
- A mobile campaign, using SMS messaging or push notifications, is a quick way to send the most important messages to employees.
How Sample Open Enrollment Communication Guides Can Help
Want to dig in even more as you plan to meet your open enrollment goals? While you’re gearing up for the busiest season of the year, turning to open enrollment templates, tools, and guides is a smart way to simplify your life.
Through hundreds of employer engagements and millions of HealthJoy member interactions, we’ve developed resources and processes to help you make the most of employee benefits communications. We’ve combed our library of playbooks and best practices to find the resources you need the most.
Inside our Ultimate Open Enrollment & Benefits Communication Kit you’ll find four essential assets to improve your open enrollment and ongoing benefits communications, including:
- Open Enrollment Communication Checklist, Templates & Samples (Word Doc)
Your go-to quickstart guide for OE communications. Inside this download, find sample open enrollment email templates, sample slack templates, and sample social media templates; stay on track with an open enrollment communication timeline you can personalize; use a handy open enrollment planning checklist to pull it all together.
- 10 Tips for your Employee Benefits Presentations (eBook)
Create excitement with the benefits package you worked so hard to design with 10 proven tips inspired by some of the most legendary TED talks ever given. Download your copy to discover new ways to educate colleagues about their benefits.
- 6 Open Enrollment Email Tips from our CMO (eBook)
In this eBook our Chief Marketing Officer, Rick Ramos, shares his best tips for writing great emails, taken from over 20 years of digital marketing experience.
- Improving Benefits Communication and Engagement (eBook)
In this eBook, we’ll show you how to refine your messaging, leverage employees’ preferred communication channels, and use communication tools to amplify employee engagement.
Why Benefits Communication Should Go Beyond Open Enrollment
After you’ve put these open enrollment templates to use, knocked off everything on your checklist, and successfully enrolled employees, it’s time to take a break. Then, jump back in! You’ll want to build on the momentum of open enrollment to keep employees engaged in their benefits throughout the year. That means building a cohesive communication and engagement strategy that supports your goals, addresses issues, and keeps employees happy.
The same tools, templates, guides and analysis you put into open enrollment can be used to reach out to employees and their families throughout the year. For instance, you might:
- Plan for quarterly email updates highlighting specific benefits features.
- Keep an eye on under-used benefits and track performance with your benefits provider.
- Keep things current with seasonal communications, like flu shot reminders in the winter and skin cancer screening reminders in the summer.
- Track your progress. There’s always room for improvement. If you aren’t tracking the success of your benefits communications, you won’t be able to iterate and improve.
Once you know what is (or isn’t) working, you can adjust as much as your population allows. Don’t be discouraged if your efforts don’t succeed right away — good benefits communication is about adjusting to meet the needs of your employees, and that’s a process you’ll never quite finish.