The biggest struggle for most HR teams is communicating benefit changes out to their employees. In all the years that I’ve been working in employee benefits, one of the oldest painful truths is that employees just don’t like to read about benefits. It’s not unusual for less than 50% of recipients to even open communications related to benefits, so it can be a distressing proposition for HR teams. I can’t promise that everyone will get your message, but I wanted to share three things to think about to help improve your open enrollment season.
As we head into fall, it’s time for most businesses to think about their annual benefit renewal and open enrollment. Even if your benefits aren’t on a calendar year, FSAs and HSAs limits change and you may still need to make some updates.
Think about message
In marketing they talk about a call to action, it’s what you’re trying to get the viewer of your communication to do. It’s important to have a plan for what you want employee’s call to action to be for open enrollment.
Do employees need to make an election for every plan? Are you rolling out new benefits that they need to review just some plans? Can employees just do nothing and have their enrollment carry forward?
Employees are most frustrated when it isn’t clear to them what they need to do. Make sure that your communication focuses on specifics about what you need them to do and when.
Think about style
It’s important to think about the communication styles that are going to work best for your organization. There’s no one size fits all right answer. email, in-person meetings and mailings to the employee’s home are probably the most common options but take some time to think about some alternatives:
- Come up with a theme or brand for the open enrollment season to provide consistency for your employees . At our firm, we have gone with themes like “Rock Enroll” and incorporated activities and messaging using that theme throughout the enrollment process. This type of branding promotes recognition and helps set the communication apart from other internal messages. You can download our Rock Enroll templates for your own use!
- Teams staff meetings or huddles – those are always good ways to get in front of people for a quick 5-10 minute communication push.
- Group chat tool like Microsoft Teams or Slack, consider open enrollment channels to field employee questions and push out information.
- Other technology that could drive messages such as the screens of your time clocks or your payroll system.
- Don’t exclude text messages for quick hit communication as well.
Every organization is going to be different in terms of what works best but take time prior to open enrollment to think about what options you have available.
Also, if you haven’t tracked in the past, consider adding a short survey during your open enrollment season about how people like to get information so that you’re better prepared for next year.
Think about timing
Open enrollment for a lot of companies hits during a busy time of year. You’re leading up to the Thanksgiving and winter holidays, if you are a retail business this is likely one of the high points for traffic throughout the year or you might just be making a push to have a strong financial year-end.
Plenty of companies also have year-end reviews and pay changes to deal with at the same time that takes manager’s time away from helping with the open enrollment messages. Whatever the situation, consider what other things might be happening in your business when you schedule your open enrollment as well as the communication leading up to it. Employees are more likely to gloss over key pieces of information if they’re overwhelmed with other things at the same time.
Here are some tips on timing:
- There isn’t a one size fits all answer for when to send out email communications to your team. In general research shows us that generally in the afternoon, around 3 p.m. is a good place to start. This is when the workday is winding down, people might have some time to kill, yet they are still active in front of their computer. Alison Davis, Founder and CEO of Davis & Company, dives in a bit deeper about best practices and finding that right time for your organization.
- After your initial request goes out, start segmenting your email distribution list by removing those employees who have completed the task. This saves them from being annoyed by getting repeated emails for a task they have already completed and gives you a better idea of how many people you still need to gather information from.
- Consider offering incentives to employees to complete the process. At BerganKDV, we reward employees who complete the open enrollment process with Kazoo points. Kazoo is an employee experience platform we use for employee recognition and rewards. You could also hold a drawing for a prize or for something like an additional day of PTO.
- By segmenting your list, you can see who your stragglers are which gives you the opportunity to ask them for feedback after the open enrollment season is complete to find out what was causing them to not engage in the process. From there, you can look at making improvements for the next season.
Open enrollment season is one of the most stressful times of year for HR people, and while benefits are important to employees, the process of getting enrolled in them isn’t. Take this time now prior to open enrollment to think about what fits best in your organization and ways to be creative.