Rethinking Open Enrollment

Tips to ensure your employees are well-informed and engaged

Open enrollment season is just around the corner and employees at many companies will soon be making important benefits decisions – from their health and retirement plans to supplemental benefits like pet insurance. All too often though, we see low employee participation or weak open enrollment employee survey scores. Why? Inaccessible, poorly timed and overly complicated communications are often cited among the top grievances.

This matters because employee benefits satisfaction is directly tied to overall workplace satisfaction, studies show. And better workplace satisfaction means less employee turnover, which in turn has a positive impact on your company’s bottom line.

Fortunately, there are simple ways to ensure your employees are engaged and well equipped to enroll in their benefits. In fact, Olson Engage recently partnered with one Fortune 50 to transform their open enrollment communications, which led to a 20 percent increase in employee satisfaction. Our employee engagement specialists share their top open enrollment communication tips. 

Reach ALL of your employees (not just corporate) where they are

If like many companies, not all of your workforce is deskbound or able to access email during the day (e.g., call center operators, factory workers, field staff, etc.), then you need to think “outside the monitor” to engage them. That might mean cascading open enrollment information through direct supervisors, or using physical communications including mailers, handouts and signage in breakrooms. Additionally, consider removing digital access barriers by setting up kiosks onsite where employees can review benefits information and enroll on dedicated laptops or tablets. After our employee focus groups revealed that one client’s call center representatives were struggling to enroll in their benefits due to lack of time away from their phone responsibilities, we helped the company institute “off the phone” breaks during open enrollment so they could meet with a benefits advisor to make their elections.

Time your communications thoughtfully

Timing of open enrollment communications is critical. The earlier you let employees know open enrollment is coming, the more time they have to weigh their options and make informed decisions. But it’s not just about communicating early, it’s important to understand what else is happening throughout the enterprise that might impact employees’ ability to focus on the information you’re sending. For example, are Mondays and Tuesdays particularly busy days for employees in your manufacturing plants? Then you might want to schedule their open enrollment reminders later in the week. Additionally, look at your corporate calendar to see if there are lesser priority communications in the same period that can be shifted, ensuring that open enrollment won’t get lost in the shuffle.

Strip away the complexity and make it simple

We hear time and time again about overly complex and confusing open enrollment communications. And yes, compliance can definitely be a barrier to simplicity. What it comes down to is thinking of your employees as consumers (in fact, we believe employees are your most important consumers) and designing a user-friendly experience that will lead them to action. There are relatively easy ways you can accomplish this. For starters, when evaluating our clients’ open enrollment communications, we test for readability and scrub the language to ensure it’s at or below an eighth-grade level. Additionally, it’s important to include clear definitions or links to a benefits glossary for terms that aren’t common vernacular. Finally, the use of simple visuals, including infographics and illustrations, can go a long way in helping employees grasp important yet complex concepts, such as how to maximize a Health Savings Account or the difference between a deductible and copay.   

Remember, your employees are people with their own preferences, priorities and motivations. Putting yourself in their shoes will enable you to understand their communication needs and design a more engaging and informative open enrollment experience. If you’d like to learn more about our unique approach to employee engagement and internal communication or start a conversation with us, we’d love to hear from you. Please contact holly.dotterer@olson.com for more information.