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Open Enrollment is one of the trickiest things to figure out as an HR professional. As the people behind the coordination of the open enrollment process, it’s easy to think that employees will take full advantage of the opportunity to add new benefits, update beneficiaries, or are the very least, learn more about what the company has to offer. Unfortunately, all too often, this isn’t the case at most companies.

As an HR professional, you know how things really tend to go. You spend hours upon hours preparing pamphlets, presentations, and meetings to teach your employees about open enrollment. But by the end of the open enrollment period, you realize that your efforts have been in vain because most of your employees seemed to take little or no action.

Do things really have to be like this? At Launchways, we strongly believe that open enrollment can and should be better than the all-to-common example that we shared above. Based on successful examples that we’ve observed in the companies we work with and within our own expertise conducting hands-on open enrollments for our clients, we have some advice for how to have a successful open enrollment in 2020.

In this post, we’ll cover:

  • Understand the employee point of view
  • Make benefits information exciting and unique
  • Take your responsibility to communicate seriously

Information Overload – Understand Your Employees’ Point of View

Take a moment to think about all the information your employees process every day – not only in their professional lives, but in their personal lives too. From emails to social media feeds to flyers to billboards to podcasts, your employees are constantly being bombarded with information. We didn’t even mention the advertisements that are embedded in most of those mediums, which are designed specifically to trap the attention of your employee.

If you want your employees to care about open enrollment, you are going to have to think of ways to breach this wall of information overload. We’ll talk more about strategies to do that later on in this post.

Research shows that most employees in most companies rush through their open enrollment actions. Employees generally spend less than one hour reviewing their current benefits and making decisions about any changes.

Put yourself in the shoes of your average employee. You have the obvious work and home responsibilities. However, with COVID-19 now impacting most people’s work and personal lives, things just got a lot more complicated. Now more than ever, employees might be so overwhelmed that open enrollment is the last thing in the world they’re worried about.

Now that we’ve talked about things you should consider from the perspective of your employees, let’s cover what you can do about these hurdles.

How to Make the Information Stick

You must learn how to make your open enrollment communications stick. To do this, you’ll need to deliberately differentiate your communications from anything else that your employees might be processing with their minds. In other words, you can’t expect to send a standard email and expect a high level of employee engagement. Your employees likely receive dozens, if not hundreds, of similar emails each day. Here are some strategies you can use to deliberately differentiate your communications:

  • Establish an internal communications brand that is used in all communication about open enrollment. Determine which colors, fonts, and imagery you will use. This brand will need to be unique, so be bold with those design choices!
  • Have a variety of opportunities for employees to learn about and participate in open enrollment. Leverage an HRIS platform that can handle the logistics of employee benefits decisions during open enrollment, but also go beyond digital platforms to provide more hands-on education.
  • You should have in-person (or Zoom call) Q&A sessions, virtual workshops, and both prerecorded and live presentations available. You can also leverage a combination of printed materials as well as digital communications. In other words, cast a wide net! Every employee will learn things in different was, so the more diverse you can be, the more likely you are to find a strategy that connects with each employee.
  • Be creative by having games, competitions, trivia, etc. related to open enrollment. Don’t forget the prizes! Your employees may enjoy the chance to get away from their typical responsibilities for an hour to compete with each other while learning about open enrollment.

Some of these recommendations may be challenging in the year 2020, especially if many of your employees are telecommuting due to COVID-19. For example, in-person Q&A sessions might not be practical indoors. If this is the case for your company, consider holding them outdoors or limiting the size of the group and having extra sessions (or transitioning to entirely virtual engagements).

Encourage Employees to Take Open Enrollment Seriously

The most important advice we can offer in this post is that you MUST take open enrollment seriously if you except your employees to take it seriously. As an organization, be willing to invest to improve employee understanding of open enrollment processes. Also, understanding the crucial role of modern benefits administration technology and leveraging an effective platform is key.

Make your marketing, communications, and public relations employees a core part of the open enrollment process. While HR professionals are fantastic at working on the people side of the business, they may not have a strong background in marketing or communications. Use the experts that you have available to you to make sure you implement the strategies we recommended in the previous section. Remember to brand your open enrollment messaging, differentiate the communications from other information that your employees will be processing, be creative, and cast a wide net.

Work With the Right Benefits Broker

The right employee benefits broker won’t leave you on the hook to figure out open enrollment. At Launchways, we conduct open enrollment on behalf of all our clients. We provide the highest caliber of employee education, so team members can select the right plan for them and their family. If you’re interested in learning more about what it’s like to work with Launchways as your broker, learn more today.

Key Takeaways

The basics of making open enrollment successful are the same in 2020 as they always have been. However, because employees are dealing with so many things in their professional and personal lives, employers will need to go above and beyond to make sure open enrollment communications and instructions motivate employees to act.

Here are some key takeaways from this post:

  • Take time to visualize your open enrollment communication materials from the perspective of your employees. While visualizing, do you care about the information? If not, why? Use your findings from that thought exercise to guide your open enrollment communication strategy.
  • Develop an internal communications brand that is incorporated into your open enrollment materials.
  • Be creative and innovative with your open enrollment strategies. Remember, you are competing with “information overload” to connect with them.
  • Take your preparation and strategy behind open enrollment very seriously. If you don’t, you’ll never have a successful open enrollment.
  • Working with the right employee benefits broker can be a game-changer at open enrollment time.
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