Thursday, August 10, 2017

The Key to a Successful Benefit Enrollment? Communication!

Open enrollment brings an annual opportunity to help employees better understand their benefits so they can get the most of out your programs and increase employee engagement. It takes a solid communication strategy to deliver enrollment success.

A sharp focus on communication essentials can help you get the most bang for your communication buck, even if you are struggling with shrinking resources—in both budget and staff. This means first identifying “why, what, how and who.”

Start with Why

What’s your organization’s benefits philosophy? For example, do you want to:
  • Provide comprehensive benefits that promote long-term health and wellness, offer opportunities to build long-term financial security, and allow time off for work-life balance?
  • Stay competitive with top employers in markets in which you compete for talent? Be an employer of choice? 
Once you have your “big picture,” provide context for what is happening with your benefit program for the next plan year. Be as open as possible, outlining exactly what changes you are making and why (e.g., What external factors are at play? Why did we decide to respond this way? How will this affect me?) You’ll find that transparency builds employee trust now and in the years to come.

What is Next

What are your goals for this open enrollment? Start with your primary general goals, such as: improving employees’ understanding and perceived value of benefits, maintaining overall benefits compliance, and/or lower health plan costs.

Then, define your specific goals, such as: attempting to migrate 20% of employees into the HDHP plan or increasing participation in the wellness program and/or biometrics participation by 30%.
Whatever your primary and secondary objectives are this year, make sure to name them and set up metrics to measure your success (e.g., using enrollment data, website analytics, and feedback from employees through surveys and/or focus groups).

Define How by Paying Attention to Who

Every successful communication strategy has specific core elements—and other elements that depend on the specific audiences you want to reach.

Here are six tried-and-true steps to include in any benefits communication strategy:

1. Review last’s year’s enrollment communications—and any benefit communication from the current year. If you haven’t already taken a look back at last year’s enrollment communications, now’s the time! Collect everything you shared with employees (postcards, emails, enrollment guides, posters, etc.) and, together with your team, discuss:
  • What worked and what didn’t?
  • What feedback did you receive?
  • What could be better explained or enhanced with photos, graphics or more information?
  • What contributed to your success? (Targeted emails, postcards sent to home, etc.?﷯
2. Brand your benefits. If you don’t already have a benefits or HR brand, create one to help you capture employees’ attention and maximize the money you invest in their benefits.

3. Craft your strategy. Successful benefits enrollment depends on a solid strategy that includes defining your objectives, key messages, timing, media and budget.

4. Refresh or create an online resource for benefits information. You probably work with a number of benefit vendors with their own websites—which means employees may have to remember dozens of URLs, usernames, and passwords to access information about their programs. A benefits website with all of your benefit information online with links to vendors’ secure websites makes it easy for employees to take action, find what they want and complete transactions.

5. Use a variety of media. People like to receive communication from a mix of channels. Some people are going to pay attention to email; some will wait for the enrollment guide; others may watch a video and some will need printed communication sent to their home. Yes, snail mail is still necessary if you have workers without access to digital channels.

Remember, most people need to hear or see a message multiple times, in multiple ways, to understand it completely. No matter what channels you use, be consistent across each:
  • Traditional elements: posters, postcards, enrollment guide, video
  • In-person group meetings
  • Packets (guide, forms, etc.) mailed to home addresses to involve the familySocial media
  • Intranet posts, blogs
  • E-mails and instant messaging
  • Live hotline for questions and concerns
  • Decision support tools
6. Keep it simple—and engaging. Make sure communications are short and action-oriented. Consider creating an eye-catching, to-the-point 8- to 12-page guide as the main source of information, then offer other resources (online content, meetings, etc.) for additional details. Include action steps, checklists and decision support tools. You’ll save time and money and your employees will be grateful for the simplicity! 

Work With Us!

Dillon Consulting & Coaching, LLC and i.e., creative have successfully partnered for years to bring the best in employee communication and design to our clients. Learn more!