The Benefits Communication Prep You Should Start 3-4 Months Before Your Open Enrollment

Mark Rader Benefits Communication, Open Enrollment Communication

If your open enrollment is 3 or 4 months away, you may feel like you have plenty of time before things get bananas. But as you know, OE has a way of sneaking up on you. When it does, you’ll wish you had a friend that could shoulder some of the load, give you a sense of direction, and help you get ahead of it all.

Fortunately, YOU can be that friend to YOURSELF. If you take some time right now to think through your communication strategy, you can set yourself up for an open enrollment that’s unusually engaging and effective.

Here’s what to do:

#1. Review last year’s communication plan

  • Collect everything you shared with employees (PowerPoint files, emails sent, posters, mailers, the works).
  • Share them with your team.
  • Then work together to answer these questions:
    o What would a ‘regular employee’ make of these messages?
    o What elements are potentially confusing to that employee?
    o What elements are likely grabbing that employee’s attention?
    o Where could an image have helped?

If possible, loop in the writers, artists or marketers that work at your company. They’re communication specialists, so they’ll have feedback. And they’re creatives, so the feedback will be opinionated. It will give you a fresh perspective.

#2. Set clear goals and choose a theme

Your open enrollment goals will vary based on the objectives of your department and your company. Maybe you’re focused on getting more people to enroll in a wellness program. Or maybe you’re trying to migrate people into a new plan. Maybe you’re just trying to raise the usage numbers on a decision support tool. In any case, make sure to establish your primary objective and your secondary objectives. Name each objective, and then quantify a goal and a stretch goal for that objective.

When building these goals, think like a marketer. Find a message that can strike an emotional chord. If your message doesn’t have a clear, personal impact on the reader, your audience won’t pay close attention to it.

Take a few minutes to think about your message in terms of ‘gains’ and ‘losses.’ List out all the good things your colleagues stand to gain if they pay attention and make smart decisions, and then list out all the problems they’ll have to deal with if they don’t pay attention.

Quantify those gains or losses into snappy and easy-to-remember headlines. Then, consider which headlines might resonate with which segments of your workforce. A headline could be something like “Spending 10 minutes with ALEX could save you hundreds of dollars in healthcare costs.”

#3. Measure last year’s success

Take the time to build a survey for your employees. It should let them anonymously answer a series of questions about how they engaged with your communications last year. To jog their memories, consider including some of last year’s communication materials when you send out the survey link. Your questions will vary depending on what information you’re trying to find out, but below is one example, for reference:

Four Quick Questions about Our Enrollment Season Communications

1. How effective were our benefits communications (benefits guide, emails, seminars, benefits fairs) in helping you make confident choices about your benefits last year?
Ø Effective
O Somewhat effective
O Neither effective nor ineffective
O Somewhat ineffective
O Ineffective

2. If we held ALEX-specific office hours to answer your benefits questions before and during open enrollment, how likely would you be to drop by?
O Very likely
O Somewhat likely
Ø Somewhat unlikely
O Very unlikely

3. Would you be more likely to read benefits reminders if we texted them to your cell phone rather than email them to your work email address?
Ø Yes
O No

4. What parts of choosing your benefits feel most confusing or frustrating–and what would help you understand those things better?
(Describe in your own words).

For some high-level guidance on building a good survey, check out this helpful blog post.

#4. Make your benefits guide more user-friendly

Not all benefits guides are created equal. Some are built for minimal confusion and provide easy access to the most essential information. And some…are wordy and visually overwhelming, but make a wonderful doorstop when stacked up by the garbage bin.

When reviewing your current benefits guide, consider the following:

  • Put yourself in the shoes of a new employee. What are their top 3 questions? How easily can they find the answers? Could it be easier?
  • Is the most important information listed first on each page? Are calls to action located in their own box or sidebar to separate them from the rest of the text?
  • Do the section titles in the table of contents exactly match the section titles as they appear throughout the benefits guide?
  • Are the main sections of the guide visually distinct? Color-coding is an effective way to do this.
  • If you want to push folks to use a benefits support tool, is it mentioned in the introduction? Have you provided the page number where readers can find more information about it?

Get more in-depth help in creating an engaging, readable, not-boring guide now.