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7 Open Enrollment Communication Tips and Examples

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    Effective communication during open enrollment helps employees better understand their options and make informed decisions. Sparse or no communication, on the other hand, can lead to low engagement and a wave of confused workers. Read how to enhance your organization’s experience with seven tips that can help you prepare for this year’s open enrollment.

    How do you justify benefits if employees don’t use them?

    Open enrollment gives your people a chance to make the most of their compensation. By selecting benefits that speak to their unique needs, employees can:

    • enhance their well-being
    • address immediate or nagging issues
    • invest in their future and long-term health

    Unfortunately, none of the above is possible if your people don’t understand and actually use their benefits. Effective open enrollment communication allows HR to educate workers and, ultimately, connect them with the right options.

    Let’s explore seven practical ways you can enhance communication around open enrollment in your organization. We’ll examine why this communication matters and tips for every phase of open enrollment.

    Why is communication during open enrollment important?

    Communicating throughout open enrollment gives employees a greater opportunity to learn about their benefits and verify what selections they truly need. Without clear and frequent communication, employees may rush through or skip open enrollment altogether. Consequently, they could miss a worthwhile benefit or fail to pick up an option that’s vital for them.

    Additionally, communication helps employees understand the impact their benefits have on their pay. This makes it easier to make informed decisions and compare tiered coverage. It also gives them a foundation to financially plan and fine-tune their benefits to create their personalized optimal package.

    7 tips for communicating throughout open enrollment

    While open enrollment will unfold a bit differently for every company, some strategies provide a universal advantage. As you read each of the following tips, imagine how they might fit into your company. If you have a larger HR team, it may be valuable to keep certain contributors in mind who would be ideal in different phases of open enrollment.

    Ready to enhance your open enrollment communication? Keep these strategies in mind and adapt them as necessary to help them better fit into your company’s operations.

    1. Provide ample notice

    No employee should ever feel blindsided by open enrollment. Ensure you provide your people with a substantial heads-up. Consider sending out initial communication about open enrollment months in advance, such as an email that clearly explains:

    • how employees can enroll
    • what changes they should expect this year
    • where they can direct any questions

    Keep this advanced notice engaging and interesting. For example, if you’re introducing a new, unconventional benefit like pet insurance, consider writing something about it or broadcasting info through the internal channels your business uses.

    Most importantly, keep this early communication frequent. Escalate your communication as you get closer to open enrollment, but don’t overwhelm employees with an overabundance of messages. Diversify what you send, keep it informative and meet your people at their level. After all, open enrollment is for their benefit.

    2. Encourage communication

    True, you help employees by providing them with material about open enrollment before it starts. But that doesn’t necessarily mean what you send meaningfully engages them.

    Think about the many emails and other messages you receive in one day. Which among them stick out to you, if any? And what makes the ones that do catch your attention work? Maybe it was because you were already anticipating the message, or perhaps a compelling subject line convinced you to look at something differently and explore further.

    Your open enrollment communication should have a similar effect. It should snag employees’ attention and encourage them to ask questions. Luckily, you have the advantage of communicating with them about something that likely matters to them. (Unlike the 18th come back email from a streaming subscription you cancelled years ago.)

    In fact, you could actively field questions employees haven’t asked yet. Consider writing an open enrollment FAQ to answer general questions, such as:

    • How do I compare tiered plans?
    • How do I see the impact these new options will have on my pay?
    • Is it possible for me to enroll in an option later?
    • If I’m on the fence about an option, what pros and cons should I weigh before enrolling?

    Granted, you won’t cover every potential concern with an FAQ. Make sure you promote two-way communication at every stage of open enrollment, especially in advance of it. You should also invest in software that makes it easy for employees to ask their questions and automatically route those inquiries to the best person to answer. The tech should also store common responses that can quickly address recurring concerns.

    3. Provide one-on-one support

    Even if you make it easy for employees to ask questions, some may still require a more personalized touch. Meet them on their level by offering sessions to go over their options in detail. The sooner you schedule these meetings, the less likely you’ll have to address stressful, last-minute concerns.

    Of course, you need to give these sessions structure. Consider sending out communication that not only informs employees about these sessions, but also guides them through the appropriate prep. A form, questionnaire or even a survey can help you and your team identify what to expect and contemplate the best approach.

    If you have the capacity, it could be helpful to check in with employees individually. It could be as simple as a message through your company’s chat tool; something like, “Hi, there! We noticed we haven’t heard from you about the upcoming benefits enrollment. We just want you to know we’re here to answer your questions anytime. We can even schedule a one-on-one session if you need it. Just let us know.”

    Keep thinking about which approach might work best for your workforce. If one strategy doesn’t get the responses or participation you expect, consider where you may have slipped and pivot. And if employees don’t ask questions, don’t be hard on yourself. All any HR pro can do is provide resources to their people and offer to help — it’s up to employees to take it.

    4. Highlight the positive impact of benefits

    Don’t just tell your people about a new benefit; highlight why it should matter to them and how it could enhance their lives. Consider dedicating entire emails and other communication to one benefit specifically. And don’t keep these messages to an explanation. Illustrate how this could benefit a real person.

    Research outlets like the Society for Human Resource Management and others to find news and testimonials about benefits your company intends to offer. (This can also be a great way to research new and rising benefits.) For example, you might find an article about how family forming benefits allowed an employee and their partner to take the next big step in their lives. Or you might find a story about how someone was able to extend the life of their older dog or cat thanks to pet insurance.

    You could even ask your vendors for this kind of material. If the offering was compelling enough to invest in, it’s likely employees have qualified it. Ask about what people say and how they use the benefit, then reflect on and summarize that material for your own employees. If it’s an option, it may be useful to host representatives from benefit providers to give a presentation and field questions in a voluntary meeting.

    5. Regular follow-ups

    Though not every employee will have questions about their benefits, they should understand their value. We examined above how it’s useful to check in on your workforce, but you should also remind them of how these benefits can help them.

    This communication doesn’t need to be overly personalized, but it should still resonate with as many employees as possible. You could explain how medical events, gym memberships and whatever else your organization assists employees with are much more expensive without the benefit you offer.

    At the same time, you should identify unique ways employees can use their benefits. For example, if the health savings account (HSA) you offer applies for something like LASIK, let employees know. They shouldn’t have to find out about this advantage secondhand. These follow-ups could also be useful to explicitly explain what certain benefits don’t cover, such as if the local discounts you offer don’t apply to every gym.

    6. Tracking progress

    When open enrollment starts, you and your team should know the progress each employee makes. While immediate participation may vary depending on how your company operates — like if it’s in the middle of a peak period — you should keep track of how many workers enroll each day.

    If you notice only a handful of employees participate, continue your follow-up communication and send direct messages to individuals the closer you get to enrollment closing. Even employees who historically drag their feet will likely wrap up their enrollment with enough encouragement.

    If participation still seems low despite ample communication, it may be time to reevaluate your offerings. Before making any drastic changes, however, survey your employees to help determine why they may have not responded well. More likely than not, their feedback will help guide you to create a more engaging experience filled with benefits your people actually want.

    7. Use benefits administration software

    From monitoring progress to helping employees understand their options, the right HR tech makes open enrollment easier for everyone involved. Consider using software that makes it easy for employees to select plans and see the exact impact on their pay in real time.

    Additionally, the software you purchase should allow you to generate reports that help:

    • ensure you don’t overpay for benefits
    • notify and remind employees about enrollment
    • access details about changes within a fixed period
    • identify your company’s most popular benefits

    Your tech provider should also offer an option that simplifies and automates communication with carriers to help close the gap on disparate data. Taking this a step further, your tech should include the option to consult a dedicated benefits coordinator to help you reconcile enrollment and ensure a seamless transition into payroll.

    Open enrollment communication: FAQ

    How do I announce new benefits to employees?

    Use every channel available to communicate with employees. Consider highlighting new benefits with testimonials and realistic use cases. You should also consider hosting an open session to both announce new benefits and field questions from employees.

    When should I announce open enrollment?

    You should announce open enrollment early, but not so much so that it’s lost in any other communication employees have to sift through. Consider sending your initial announcement three or more months in advance and continue to stoke engagement and interest with frequent communication until open enrollment starts.

    How do I boost open enrollment communication?

    Start early and anticipate the messages you want to communicate. Additionally, send follow-ups to employees and check in on them to ensure they don’t have lingering questions. If anything, these follow-ups will at least put open enrollment on employees’ minds, even if they don’t necessarily have questions.

    When does open enrollment typically take place?

    Generally, businesses schedule their open enrollment around when their health care coverage starts. For many, this begins on Nov. 1 and lasts until Jan. 15. However, certain states operate differently. Consult a licensed legal professional to ensure your open enrollment period complies.

    Can changes be made to benefit selections outside open enrollment?

    Yes, with certain qualifying life events (QLEs). QLEs often involve the birth of a new child, marriage or another event that warrants a change in coverage.

    Explore Paycom’s resources to learn more about benefits, open enrollment and more.

    DISCLAIMER: The information provided herein does not constitute the provision of legal advice, tax advice, accounting services or professional consulting of any kind. The information provided herein should not be used as a substitute for consultation with professional legal, tax, accounting or other professional advisers. Before making any decision or taking any action, you should consult a professional adviser who has been provided with all pertinent facts relevant to your particular situation and for your particular state(s) of operation.