Not too long ago, we conducted a benefits communication survey of 2,000 eligible employees to learn more about how people process information about their benefits and respond to communication from their employers.
Here are five insights from that survey to keep in mind when making last-second tweaks to your open enrollment communications.
1. Your employees trust you (a lot)
It’s true — about three quarters (74 percent) of employees trust benefits communications a “a lot” or “a great deal,” and nearly four in five (79 percent) will look at whatever you give them and think that you have their best interests at heart.
What you can do: Recruit an army of henchmen (matching silver jumpsuits optional). Your organization’s front-line managers—people who have regular face time with employees through daily interactions, recurring stand-up meetings, or semi-regular check-ins—can amplify your open enrollment messaging and serve as one of the most effective communication channels out there. (This is doubly true if the bulk of your workforce doesn’t have access to email.)
2. Choosing health insurance is stressful for many
Forty-nine percent of employees say that “making health insurance decisions is always very stressful” for them — note the “always” and the “very.” Having half of your employees enter enrollment season very stressed is something you can’t ignore.
What you can do: Make sure people know where to go for help. Getting a good decision support tool and promoting the heck out of it is still possible between now and the start of OE. But you can also just make sure your people know how to find you and your colleagues on the benefits team by adding helpful photographs to identify faces, and relevant phone numbers, email addresses, and desk locations so people can find you. Also, if you’re personally available to help people walk through tough decisions, let them know! Add a postscript to your email signature saying, “Come to me with your open enrollment questions. I’m happy to help.”
3. Younger employees need some extra help
Chalk it up to inexperience — employees between the ages of 18 and 34 are more likely to find a company’s open enrollment process “extremely” confusing than their more seasoned peers (49 percent versus 35 percent for ages 35 to 49, and 27 percent for ages 50+).
What you can do: Create messaging that targets younger workers specifically. Offer supplemental open enrollment break-out sessions after your general benefits meetings and consider creating messaging specifically tailored to workers who are just entering the workforce, leaving their parents’ insurance plans after age 26, or facing new life stages like getting married and having kids.
4. Partnered people want their better halves involved
A whopping 91 percent of those living with a partner think it’s important for them to understand the benefits on offer during open enrollment, and two-thirds (67 percent) of partnered people wish their employers would make materials specifically designed for their better halves.
What you can do: Make open enrollment content easier to share. Add “and Family” next to employees’ names on the address lines of anything you send them in the mail. For live meetings, considering offering a session or two after working hours or on the weekend so partners can attend, but if that’s not possible, see if you can offer access to your meetings by webinar or phone. Also, add a simple note to all your benefits emails reminding employees to forward this to their partner if he or she is the primary benefits decision-maker in the family.
5. Boring content turns people off fast
Do you know what happens when the open enrollment communication is complex and dry? People start skipping benefits meetings (20 percent versus just 6 percent when meetings aren’t perceived as boring). They throw mailers in the trash unread (22 percent versus just 7 percent when the content isn’t dull). And they stop paying attention to what you have to say, and go on to make decisions they later regret.
What you can do: Write shorter, more engaging emails. Also, make sure you always provide one strong call to action (CTA) that clearly describes what you want the employee to do.
Given all that we know now, it’s no surprise that 21 percent of employees say they often regret the benefits decisions they’ve made. You’ve got a lot on your plate this time of the year and may not want to go tinkering around with communication that’s nearly ready to go. But! Can you afford to have 1 in 5 of your employees feeling anything other than confidence and satisfaction about their benefits choices?
Improving your open enrollment communications — even in small ways — can make people feel better about the important choices they have to make. It not only helps reduce the chances of people making decisions they may regret, it also helps boost morale and satisfaction throughout your organization.