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4 Reasons Why Communication is Crucial to a Successful Open Enrollment

Communication is key to a successful open enrollment.

Each year, most employers will hold an event referred to as “open enrollment.” Open enrollment is a scheduled period of time prior to the start of the company’s new Employee Benefits Plan Year. During open enrollment, employees can make changes to their benefits elections without the requirement of a qualifying event (i.e.: marriage, divorce, birth of a child). Open enrollment can be an extremely positive and rewarding experience for a company and its employees and with the support and guidance of an employee benefits consultant, a successful one. Here are some ways to improve your employee experience during open enrollment.

Why is open enrollment important to both the employer and the employee?

Employers will evaluate their employee benefits package and will often make changes to their current benefits and add new benefit options. Educating and informing employees about their options is an important part of open enrollment.

To make the open enrollment process as smooth as possible, here are 4 ways employers can educate and communicate to employees effectively.

  1. Schedule and communicate the open enrollment period and upcoming enrollment meetings well in advance. This ensures there is ample time for employees to adjust their schedule to attend and have enough time to review their benefits options prior to enrollment. Sending out postcards, “Employee Benefits Open Enrollment Coming Soon,” either by mail or electronically, is a good way to keep employees informed and engaged.
  2. Employee benefits enrollment meetings have traditionally been offered onsite as well as via webinar. As a result of COVID-19, many employers have a workforce from home during open enrollment. Additionally, there is a high percentage of employees whose position is considered remote. For this reason, consider multiple ways in which to communicate with employees such as virtual benefit fairs, webinars (both live and recorded) and onsite meetings.
  3. Provide electronic versions of the benefits materials by sending via email to employees or posting to either the company Intranet or within a BenAdmin system (if applicable). Digital Benefit Booklets that include Brainshark videos are becoming popular, offering employees the opportunity to learn more about its benefits. For example, educate on what a health savings account (HSA) is and how it can offer employees an opportunity to pay for out of pocket expenses with pre-tax $, etc.
  4. Communicate clearly to employees the deadline for making benefits elections. Giving employees a deadline will increase the success of a smooth renewal process with carriers, thus ensuring that ID cards and member-facing materials from carriers arrive prior to the start of the new plan year and that payroll deductions have been set up in a timely manner.

Technology is changing the open enrollment process, both how communication is handled as well as tools available to employees.

In a recent SHRM article, my colleague Shelley McLean, a senior client executive at OneDigital Charlotte, talks about how employers should think out of the box when it comes to their benefits communication stating,

“Employers need to send creative messaging to meet the employees where they are. Evolve their benefits communication plan to keep up with the times.”

Technology plays an increasingly important role in how employees access their information and make choices during open enrollment. A growing number of tools can now be accessed through mobile apps. For example, many employers offer the ability for employees to elect their benefits during open enrollment via an online Benefit Administration (BenAdmin) system.

For additional resources on creating an engaging open enrollment experience, visit the OneDigital Open Enrollment Hub or contact a OneDigital strategist.