As we head into fall, it’s time for most businesses to think about their annual benefits 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. The biggest struggle for most HR teams is effectively communicating benefit changes to their employees.
I have been working in the field of employee benefits for many years and to this day, one of the oldest painful truths is that employees just are not interested in reading about their 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 read your open enrollment communications, but I wanted to share three things that may increase readership among your employees.
Think about message
In marketing, call to actions are used widely within communications. Call to actions emphasize what actions you are trying to get the reader of your communication to do. It’s important to plan and define what call to action you want to use in your open enrollment communications so that your employees have clear next steps and desired actions to take.
Do employees need to make an election for every plan? Are you rolling out new benefits in some but not all plans that need to be reviewed? 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 what actions you want your employees to take and that a clear deadline is shared.
Think about style
It’s important to think about which communication styles 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 here are some other alternatives that you may consider:
- 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!
- Schedule staff meetings or huddles as a way to get in front of people for a quick five-to-10-minute open enrollment push.
- Group chat tools like Microsoft Teams or Slack, consider open enrollment channels to field employee questions and use as a centralized location to share information.
- Other technology 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’s communication preferences are different, but it’s key to take the necessary time to layout your communication plan prior to open enrollment so that you know which tactics you are going to use and when.
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 Thanksgiving and the winter holidays, which if you are a retail business this is likely one of the high points for traffic of the entire year. Or for other industries, 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 a manager’s time away from helping reinforce the importance of open enrollment. 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 is no one size fits all answer for when to send out email communications to your team. In general, research shows us that typically 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 the 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 having benefits is incredibly important to employees, the process of getting enrolled in them isn’t. Now is the time before the madness of open enrollment begins to think about what communication tactics fit best for your organization and how you can be creative to keep employees engaged. If you are a K-Pay client, I encourage you to join our HCM team for an upcoming webinar in which we will share what preparation techniques you can use in K-Pay to streamline your open enrollment processes. Register here.