Who knew what awaited us two years ago would be a global pandemic, all manner of social demonstrations, divisive politics and an array of natural disasters conjuring visions of The Ten Commandments. In response to COVID-19, everything went virtual.
And, while part of the labor force has returned to the workplace, a sizable portion will likely continue working from home for the foreseeable future. This means organizations must communicate in different ways, particularly regarding the all-important open enrollment period.
In that light, here’s what you should know about mastering open enrollment communications in this new paradigm.
What is Open Enrollment?
Open enrollment is an annual period – usually in the fall — during which employees can buy and apply for health insurance for the coming year. During this period, which typically lasts just a few weeks, employees can also adjust or cancel their current plans.
Selecting a healthcare plan for the calendar year ahead is a key decision during this period. So, before enrolling, employees must examine their choices to help them decide what coverage best suits them.
Open Enrollment and COVID-19
Because open enrollment will be different again this year, it’s crucial to implement innovative and thought-through communication strategies that make certain your people “get” the value of your proffered total rewards package. You must also ensure they understand the ways in which benefits can be helpful during these uncertain times.
Using Effective Methods to Engage Employees
Organizations must go a different route than they’ve been going, in terms of open enrollment communications. Otherwise, they may find themselves with a workforce that’s not engaged. The good news is, according to a recent Mercer survey, the main changes organizations expect to make to this year’s open enrollment period includes utilizing different communication and media channels. Companies are also coming up with new messaging to assist employees with their choices, and creating virtual health fairs.
New ways to communicate can include:
- Personalization. Rather than generic, one-size-fits-all communications philosophies, organizations are increasingly embracing a more customized and targeted approach based on classifications such as age range, gender, existing plan choices and buying patterns. You may also want to consider ensuring your communications are more relatable. This could entail, for example, using self-recorded testimonials, or key decision tools.
- The use of more visuals. Benefits can be rather complex. Because of that, you may want to mull ways to incorporate infographics, images, videos, quizzes, and games.
- Learn what your employees are thinking. Use pulse surveys and live question-and-answer sessions and the like to gain insights into what’s on your people’s minds as you head into the enrollment period. Mercer, for example, offers a platform called Mercer Virtual Benefits Fair, where employees and their families can learn about benefits.
- Provide digital tools. Because so many people are working from home or wherever, you must be innovative in terms of getting info about employee benefits to benefits recipients. Whether it’s through tablets, smartphones, or computers, you can use the very digital tools your employees employ daily to communicate key messages regarding open enrollment.
Open Season Messaging
Once you’ve brainstormed all the ways you can communicate with employees about open enrollment, begin your work on messaging.
Put together a strategy for implementing your communication efforts. Be careful in terms of what, how, and when you communicate. The next step is to craft the narrative. Assemble your messaging in ways in which it inspires people to act. Use storytelling to illustrates the ways in which certain electives can help them.
Then, it’s time for plan activation. This is where timing comes in, accounting for enrollment deadlines, pulse results, and how much program change employees can expect. You should also give employees sufficient time to make their choices.
In short, mastering open enrollment communications requires thoughtfulness, customization, and more visuals, as well as digital tools. It will also benefit from good timing, an effective narrative, and an understanding of what your employees are thinking. If you need help with this, we suggest the experts at the leading global HR consulting firm Mercer.