It’s Open Enrollment season! This is a time of year that can be very stressful for communications and HR teams. Why does everyone wait until the last minute to change their benefits? Why do so many people ask for extensions?! Didn’t they get the emails? Didn’t they see the signs posted in the breakrooms, hallways, and elevators?! Didn’t they check out the intranet where the reminder has been displayed for months?!
While it can feel like a losing battle, preparing for open enrollment and shifting your communication strategy can make a big difference. Here are a few things to consider when tackling OE this year:
1. Get the messages in front of ALL employees — including your frontline workers! The effectiveness of common ways of communicating OE like trickle-down communications and signage are hard to quantify. Do you have an employee communication channel that reaches everyone? Email might be a solution, but what about those employees who don’t have company email addresses. Do you have ways to get information to them and know they actually received it?
2. Give employees easier access to their benefits information and to information that helps them understand how to update or enroll in benefits. Don’t assume everyone understands what they need to do or what is even available to them through company sponsored benefits. Create simple materials that show employees “what’s in it for me.” Hold a webinar or Q&A session that is available to all employees. For the new generation of Millennials and those in Gen Z, create short videos that answer the important questions that you know employees will have.
3. Communicate early, and follow up on a regular cadence. There will always be those employees who will enroll right away…and then there will be those that wait until the 11th hour. Start communicating about open enrollment one month in advance and schedule regular reminders, increasing your cadence as the deadline approaches.
If you can’t do these things with existing communications channels, there are ways to figure out why your strategies have not worked in the past or to improve the process at your organization. Consider conducting a channel assessment to figure out which communication channels are effective and if they are reaching all audiences. Make sure the tools being used provide you with analytics and data to know what OE content is working and what isn’t. Have you asked your employees (especially those who missed the OE deadline) about what you could have done differently that would have caused them to sign up on time?
Most importantly, recognize that Open Enrollment is an employee communications effort. This is a great opportunity for HR and Comms to work together, be creative and do not go at it alone.