Offering a competitive benefits package is one of the best ways to attract and retain talented employees. Unfortunately, not all employees understand what benefits are being offered, and therefore they miss out on valuable opportunities to enroll for coverage. Open enrollment refers to the period of time each year when employees are able to sign up for benefits, such as health insurance. If an employee fails to sign up during open enrollment, they may be forced to wait until the next open enrollment period to sign up. The time of year for open enrollment depends on the benefits plan chosen.
It does not matter if you have just a handful of employees or hundreds, open enrollment communication is crucial to enable your staff to make informed decisions about which benefits are best for them and their families. During open enrollment, employees have the opportunity not only to acquire new benefits, but to make changes to their existing benefits. They may add new coverage, terminate existing coverage, or make essential changes to a policy. When you fail to communicate about open enrollment, your employees may miss out on the chance to adjust their benefits to what is best for them. There are a number of approaches a business owner can take when discussing open enrollment.
Strategies for Talking About Open Enrollment
Before offering benefits to your employees, take the time to reassess your existing benefits package to see where you can improve. Not every workforce will require the same benefits. Consider your target audience when developing a benefits plan to determine where in life your employees are and what their unique needs are. For example, if you have a workforce consisting of mainly young adults, their health care benefits may differ from a workforce consisting of older adults who may need these benefits more.
If your workforce consists of people of different ages and interests, use this information to promote open enrollment communication in a way that targets each group individually. Develop different message delivery systems based on what each group values the most. For example, if you focus on older employees, you may want to stress the importance of signing up for a retirement plan. For younger employees, starting a 401(k) to save for future expenses may be an important topic to discuss. Of course, you will also want to talk about the overall benefits that are available to every employee.
When conveying information about benefits and open enrollment, companies should focus on telling employees why the benefits are structured the way they are and what the benefits are supposed to accomplish. It is important to be open when discussing benefits. Make your employees immediately aware of any changes in the benefits program that could affect them, such as increased health plan premiums. Be sure to also discuss the value that each benefit offers, such as better healthcare, savings for retirement, or coverage for educational expenses. If possible, provide a detailed document that your employees can review that describes these benefits in detail.
As you are communicating about open enrollment and benefits with your employees, be sure to keep the messaging simple. Benefits can sometimes be complex and not everyone will understand the various aspects involved in each plan. In addition to using simple wording that most people can understand, provide your employees with checklists and other tools that will make it easy to see what is being offered. Also, provide documentation that lists what an employee needs to do to enroll for a particular benefit. Clear employee benefit enrollment materials can make all the difference when attempting to communicate with your staff.
When communicating about open enrollment, you also want to bring supervisors and managers into the discussion before the launch. A simple heads-up should suffice, but be open to any feedback you may receive. When communicating with those in the workplace, be sure to explain the benefit options in multiple ways so that you ensure that the message gets across sufficiently. Depending on your budget, you may want to share information via detailed benefits materials, webinars, videos, infographics, Q&A documents, or similar tools designed to outline the value of the benefits offered. Also, consider developing a campaign that will allow you to repeat these key messages.
Remember that your employees will need some time to think about their benefit options, so provide sufficient information early on in the process. Over time, send out reminders about benefits and upcoming open enrollments, so when the time comes, your staff is well prepared. There are numerous communication delivery systems that can be used to send messages, such as social media, live hotlines where employees can ask questions or have their concerns addressed, and packages mailed directly to their home. You can also schedule in-person company meetings where you can address questions.
Finally, you want to make it easy for employees to enroll in the benefit options they choose. Ideally, you should offer modern enrollment methods, such as online platforms, where employees can sign up easily from their phone or computer. Make your staff aware early on when the enrollment period ends and what information they will need to have while enrolling. Take time to remind your employees the features and value of the benefits that you are offering and what they can expect for themselves, their spouses, and their children, once they have signed up for these employee benefits.
Need Help with Communication Strategies?
Communication is critical to ensure that the open enrollment period in your workplace is successful. The communication strategies you use will depend on a variety of factors, such as your budget, number of employees, and whether or not benefits have changed since the last enrollment period. When changes are made, educational meetings with benefits providers may be required to ensure that the new benefits meet employee needs.
For more information about open enrollment communication strategies, or for assistance with developing effective strategies for communicating open enrollment with your own staff, call the business management consultants at the Business Benefits Group today.