Annual open enrollment season is one of the most anxiety-ridden times of the year for employers and employees alike.
Surveys show 49% of employees say making health benefits decisions is always stressful, and 62% feel their employers are not an adequate resource for answers to their healthcare-related questions. To make things more challenging, employees spend 30 minutes or less reviewing benefits materials, according to a Unum poll.
It takes effective employee communication to break through information overload and keep your employees engaged. Here are some tips on how to boost your communication strategy for a smoother open enrollment process:
- Communicate early and repeatedly. Begin by giving employees an early heads-up email that annual enrollment is coming, and then follow up with more communication. Don’t be afraid to repeat yourself. Remember the “Rule of Seven:” it takes an average of seven times for people to understand and act on a message.
- Emphasize what’s new and most important at the top. Don’t make employees wade through a lot of generalities and background – get to the point quickly and concisely. Employees want to know what’s new with their benefits and what choices they need to make for the year ahead, so tell them that first.
- Keep it simple. Strive to keep your communication as conversational and jargon-free as possible. More than 9 in 10 Americans don’t understand basic insurance terms, so help your employees by simplifying the language. Great design will only go so far. If you want people to comprehend their choices, they need to understand the message.
- Send your messaging where your employees will see it. Understanding your employee population and audience is key to effective communication. If your audience covers multiple generations, make sure you have mobile friendly, web, print, video and more to make sure they can learn the way they prefer.
- Include other household decision makers. Often, employees are not alone in making benefits decisions. Spouses and other household members are key stakeholders, making it vital to target the family unit with communication. That’s one reason some employers still use print pieces delivered to homes.
- Make video part of your employee communication mix. Let’s face it, working your way through long and involved annual enrollment information can be quite a chore. Your employees will thank you if you present some of the more complex topics in simple, informative videos they can watch on the go on their smartphones.
- Let your employees have a little fun – include some gamification (puzzles and games) in your digital communication. The more engaged your employees are, the more they’ll understand about the process and navigating their way through it. Also, using mobile devices also makes it easy for employers to provide rewards and incentives.
- Personalize your communication with images of employees. Make employees the star! Featuring employee photos and video in your communication gives you a chance to create a “who’s next” culture and drive engagement. It also makes it more likely that employees will open and read your communication. For even more added value, show them engaging in activities that underscore your company values and brand. But you’ll have to follow consent rules.
- Edit, edit, edit. Proof, proof, proof. This is one way having professional wordsmiths involved can pay big dividends. Your open enrollment guide and communication have to be error-free. Double-check everything from your table of contents to your footnotes. Then triple-check it all. Careful proofreading and peer review can prevent a lot of headaches.
- Quantify results and start identifying ways to improve next year. The job isn’t done when the enrollment deadline hits. Data and metrics matter. It’s critical to measure how well your communication campaign worked – enrollment rates, participation in wellness programs, call center data and more. A strategic review of what worked and what didn’t will allow you to plan more effectively for next year.