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Power up your performance this open enrollment season

For many human resource and benefits professionals, open enrollment season can feel like an uphill battle, especially in today's environment. However, last year's shift to a largely virtual enrollment proved employers can adapt to the changing environment and look for new ways to engage employees.

This year, consider some simple strategies to make the open enrollment period an ongoing opportunity to help employees and their families meet their healthcare needs and achieve a healthy financial future.

How to plan your pre-enrollment strategy

Working with employees even before open enrollment starts can be key to overall engagement, which can have impacts across an organization, from productivity to employee turnover, a key factor to consider at a time when more than a third of workers are either thinking of leaving their current jobs or are already preparing to make a move, according to a poll by Yahoo! Finance and Gallup.

1. Start early: Employers can initiate communications about enrollment offerings at least six months before an online or in-person benefits fair or open enrollment period. Share information on why various plan options might be offered, such as a high-deductible health plan (HDHPs) and Health Savings Accounts (HSA), and how employees might benefit from enrolling in each option. For example, with a HDHP and HSA, employees might have access to lower premiums, investment options, and greater control over healthcare finances.

2. Keep things simple: Use simple language and imagery that speaks to employees. Enlist a mini focus group of employees to review any messaging and materials to ensure confusing jargon or complicated concepts are not the focus.

3. Stay flexible and plan for time: Given the increased interest in healthcare as a result of the pandemic, employees expect the additional time to digest information and review plans and options that a virtual open enrollment presentation can offer. Plan for small group in-person events or one-on-one sessions to counter this, but be prepared to pivot to exclusively online events if the situation calls for it.

Reaching and engaging employees as they navigate enrollment

An effective communication strategy needs to encourage not just enrollment in benefits but use of them as well. Creating compelling and impactful communications can give employees the information and tools they need to make confident open enrollment decisions and have a physically and financially healthy year.

Make it personal: Aim to deliver information to employees in small doses, instead of one overwhelming information dump, ensuring everything communicated is relevant to the employee base. Employers should "walk in their employees' shoes" when crafting open enrollment messaging to understand the unique needs, worries and priorities of their employee base.

Use all available tools: Illustrate the differences between the various plans offered. For example, a side-by-side comparison chart can be a great way to show the difference between a traditional health plan and an HSA-eligible plan. For both in-person and virtual enrollment events, calculators and videos are useful tools that can be shared with employees, empowering them to run comparisons for themselves at their convenience.

Include all the family decision-makers: In many cases, employees have a partner or spouse who shares or handles family healthcare decisions. To make sure messages are getting through, invite these family decision-makers to participate in benefits fairs, meetings or open enrollment webcasts. It is also smart to provide materials that employees can take home or download and share.

Find the right partner: Sometimes, the best way to reach employees and make the entire process seamless, is to work with a partner in the space who has deep expertise and demonstrated success in helping plan, implement and optimize enrollment.

After open enrollment – keep the dialogue going

Immediately following open enrollment while everything is still fresh, capture as many notes as possible on the process. What worked and what didn't? What would you do differently next time? Then, using these learnings, consider how to incorporate ongoing year-long benefits education for employees.

In summary, when it comes to benefits education and communication, the past year and a half has shown that being adaptable and inclusive is paramount, regardless of what your open enrollment season looks like this year.


This article was written by C.J. Marwitz from BenefitsPro and was legally licensed through the Industry Dive publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@industrydive.com.

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