Educating employees about open enrollment and their benefit options is an essential task that can be deceivingly difficult. Yet there are ways to boost the power of your communication. More organizations are going entirely digital these days, and the tools available are better than ever.
Here are a few of the digital communication methods we encourage clients to use, along with some common mistakes to avoid.
Virtual meetings got a big boost because of COVID-19. Many organizations are sticking with this format, even after workers return to the office. We’re also seeing a hybrid format, where companies bring small groups together to watch a Zoom meeting hosted by The Miller Group. This allows for a lively, real-time Q&A session.
Some companies are hosting Zoom meetings with multiple carriers and other vendors in attendance to answer questions. In our experience, most questions come in anonymously through the chat feature, which is a great way to protect privacy.
A recorded meeting posted to an accessible website is another effective tool for reaching workers at any time of day. And it allows spouses to join in.
Speaking of websites, most clients now use our all-in-one benefits websites, which house a variety of information their employees can access no matter where they are. These sites provide a reminder of what benefits are available and display a wide variety of benefits information. They typically include benefits overviews, rates, carrier contact information, links to provider searches, and summaries of benefits/certificates. They can include educational materials on benefits such as Telehealth and employee assistance programs, too.
Sites are optimized for easy navigation and viewing on a mobile phone – a critical feature for workers who don’t have computers at work or home.
Benefits websites offer several advantages over print-based communication. Websites are:
- Available anytime from anywhere
- Accessible by spouses, who are often critical to benefits decision-making
- Easy to update through the year as changes are made
We can also turn on chat features during open enrollment so employees can instantly chat with The Miller Group service team members.
With the popularity of benefits websites, we are seeing fewer open enrollment guides being created and even fewer printed. If you do want a guide, we can make that digital too, using an e-book that’s interactive with clickable links.
Instead of printing full guides, some companies print a simple one-page summary with links to the online guide. Very few companies are mailing materials to the home.
Reaching “Un-Desked” Workers
It can be hard to get benefits information to workers who don’t use company email or computers. For manufacturing employees and others in this situation, companies often place a link to the benefits website on their mobile time-keeping system. They also use live meetings, Zoom meetings, printed benefits booklets and worksite posters to direct employees to the website.
Mistakes to avoid
Open enrollment choices are emotional and financial decisions that can be tricky. Making the wrong selection due to misunderstandings or lack of information can have significant consequences for an employee. Employers should do all they can to educate, clarify and avoid over-complicating the message with jargon employees don’t understand.
One mistake we see employers making is packing ALL their benefits information into open enrollment and ignoring the topic for the rest of the year. Consider keeping enrollment communication light – with only the info needed to make those annual decisions. You can follow up with year-round communication that dives into individual topics for further education. Some companies release a recorded session, an FAQ or a lunch and learn session every other month.
Employers also complicate communication when they allow multiple vendors to communicate with employees in an uncoordinated manner. We sometimes ask new clients to show us their existing communication, and we get a folder full of flyers and mailings that are not consistently branded, scripted, organized or timed. This is another advantage of the all-in-one website. You can put vendor information in one, clearly branded place for access at any time.
Finally, like with any communication, it’s important to know your audience. HR staff generally know their employee’s hot buttons and sticking points. We can also do surveys to learn about what employees need and want when it comes to communication.
The ultimate goal with these open enrollment communications and year-round employee campaigns is to reach as many people as possible. The result – your workers make informed, well-considered benefits decisions! Let us know if you’d like help.
By Erin Tucker, Director of Benefits, Service, The Miller Group