As employers begin planning for this year’s Open Enrollment season, many are facing the newfound challenge of educating employees about benefits selections from afar. COVID-19 has ushered in a whole new world of work for companies around the globe, and clear and consistent employee communications are essential to keeping workforces connected and informed.
With that said, Open Enrollment is still an opportune time to engage your employees and update them on benefits they can use to navigate these unprecedented times. It’s also a proactive way to highlight offerings that enhance employee wellness — even (and especially) if they’re working from home.
Although many employers will rely on virtual Open Enrollment to deliver benefits information this year, they can still take a few pointed steps to maximize employees’ engagement with their benefits and show appreciation for their contributions to the workplace:
Consider an Active Enrollment Rather than Passive
- Instead of allowing employees to simply roll-over elections from last year, making this year an active enrollment will encourage them to make decisions that apply to their current situation. They may be going to the doctor less, thus preferring a lower premium and higher deductible plan. Alternatively, they may feel more secure with a higher premium plan and increased coverage.
- With all the uncertainty, employees may want to elect voluntary benefits they hadn’t considered previously. Having an active enrollment requires employees to take a closer look and reevaluate their benefit selections.
Reframe Benefits Communications to Keep Content Current
- So far, 2020 has been an atypical time for benefits utilization to say the least. With volatility appearing in everything from elective medical and dental coverage to 401(k) funds, the unanticipated plan and coverage events of 2020 could mean a myriad of elective changes in 2021.
- Keeping benefits messaging and selection tools current and able to address coverage concerns for 2021 could help put employees at ease and in a position to proactively decide on the best benefits for themselves and their families. Getting ahead of anticipated concerns could also steer your employees away from benefits decisions that might have a long-term implication or costly impact.
Communicate Proactively, Consistently and Often
- Proactive employee communications elicit proactive employee decisions, especially in the case of Open Enrollment. And this year, a high-touch and versatile communication strategy will be key.
- Considering additional communication methods and mediums like videos, text messages, postcards and email campaigns can increase your odds of reaching every employee with crucial information at the right time. Start early and stay consistent, so employees are engaged before, during and after the Open Enrollment process
Highlight Benefits Employees and Their Families Need Now
- Speaking of setting employees up for selection success, this is a pivotal time to present benefits information that warrants a special spotlight. In the wake of the pandemic, which programs do employees and their families need the most? EAP? Telemedicine? Mental Health and Wellness benefits? Information about reopening the workplace?
- Before 2020, many of these offerings might have been overlooked or even obsolete. But this Open Enrollment season, it’s increasingly important to educate employees on ways to enhance their work/life balance and keep themselves and their families healthy, happy and safe.
Bring in Managers for Reinforcement
- Particularly with employees who are still working remotely, the colleagues they interact with most are typically their managers. Let this dynamic serve as a reinforcing mechanism. Encourage managers to verbally communicate with their teams to engage them in the Open Enrollment process and the many resources available to them.
- Managers can also serve as exceptional sounding boards. During a time when many employees are seeking outlets to talk about the pandemic and its impact on their household, it’s important to reinforce the message that managers and HR are available to listen and answer questions.
Be Open to Questions and Feedback
- Encouraging feedback from employees is one of the best ways to promote engagement. Employees and their family members should feel comfortable to reach out and ask any questions that they might have.
- From an employer perspective, questions and feedback about the Open Enrollment process — particularly in this atypical 2021 plan year — can help them assess how effective the OE communication strategy has been and whether every detail and concern has been adequately covered.
- Once the feedback makes its way through the communication loop and back to the top, employers and HR can curate future content that’s better tailored to meet the needs of every employee, especially in a post-pandemic world.
The Main Message: Engage, Educate and Connect
While COVID-19 could bring along a unique set of challenges and setbacks this Open Enrollment season, an employee communication strategy that considers an active enrollment, keeps content current and consistent, highlights high-need benefits, galvanizes managers and encourages questions and feedback is one of the best ways to ensure an engaged, educated and connected workforce.
Most importantly, a successful Open Enrollment experience can keep your employees empowered, healthy and safe.