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How to Increase Employee Open Enrollment

Dec 5, 2018 4 MIN. READ
Understand your employees’ preferences, priorities, motivations, and obstacles to completing open enrollment.

At many companies, open enrollment benefits place important decisions–from health and retirement plans to supplemental benefits like pet insurance–on the employee. Often, we see low employee participation or weak open enrollment employee survey scores.

Why does this happen? Inaccessible, poorly timed, and overly complicated communications are cited among the top grievances.

Positive enrollment experience is necessary, as employee benefits satisfaction is directly linked to overall workplace satisfaction. Better workplace satisfaction means less employee turnover, which has a positive impact on your company’s bottom line.

Fortunately, there are simple ways to ensure your employees are engaged and well-equipped to enroll in their benefits.

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Here are my top open enrollment communication tips.

Extend your employee reach past monitors.

If your workforce is desk-bound or unable to access email during the day (e.g., call center operators, factory workers, field staff, etc.), it’s imperative that your business thinks outside the monitor. That may require cascading open enrollment information through direct supervisors, or using physical communications including mailers, handouts and signage in break rooms.

Also consider employees with digital access barriers. This group would greatly benefit from having kiosks onsite where employees can review benefits information and enroll on dedicated laptops or tablets. Not only does this provide immediate assistance to those with digital barriers, it keeps enrollment top-of-mind, with a visual presence, for all employees in that workplace.

Our employee focus groups revealed that one client’s call center representatives were struggling to enroll in their benefits due to lack of time away from their phone responsibilities. We helped the company institute “off the phone” breaks during open enrollment so they could meet with a benefits advisor to make their elections.

Time your communications thoughtfully.

Timing of open enrollment communications is critical. The earlier you let employees know open enrollment is coming, the more time they have to weigh their options and make informed decisions. But, it’s not only about proactive (timely?) communication.

It’s important to understand what else is happening throughout the enterprise that may impact employees’ ability to focus on the information you’re sending.

If Mondays and Tuesdays are particularly busy days for employees in your manufacturing plants, then you may want to schedule their open enrollment reminders later in the week. Look at your corporate calendar to see if there are lesser priority communications in the same period that can be shifted, ensuring that open enrollment won’t get lost in the shuffle.

Keep open enrollment simple.

We constantly hear about overly complex and confusing open enrollment communications, with compliance being a large obstacle to simplicity. Overcoming this means viewing your employees as your most important consumers, and designing a user-friendly experience that will lead them to action.

In starting our total evaluation, we take a look at our clients’ open enrollment communications, testing for readability and scrub the language to ensure it’s at or below an eighth-grade level. For terms that aren’t common vernacular, it’s important to include clear definitions or links to a benefits glossary.

Simple but effective visuals, including infographics and illustrations, can help employees grasp important, complex concepts when it comes to understanding healthcare. Visuals are beneficial when explaining how to maximize a Health Savings Account or distinguishing between a deductible and copay.

Your employees have varying preferences, priorities, motivations, and obstacles. By understanding these differing factors, as it relates to employees completing open enrollment, means your company can provide personalized communications, and design a more informative and engaging open enrollment experience.

If you’d like to learn more about our unique approach to employee engagement and internal communication or start a conversation with us, we’d love to hear from you. Please contact holly.dotterer@olson.com for more information.

By Holly Dotterer

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