6 Tips to Get the Most Out of Your Benefits Open Enrollment

Here we go again. That time of year when you have to grab your employees’ attention long enough to explain why benefits matter and then help them make key choices about their health care – and their future.

And this year it might be a little more challenging. Or, a lot.

In addition to communicating the usual medical plan changes and cost increases, you also have to incorporate the health care reform changes that take effect in 2011.

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We’ve created tip sheets and videos to help you make sure your benefits communication is effective. And this Thursday I’m presenting a webinar on HR Executive about communicating strategically creating health care reform.

Here are some tips on making your communication simple and effective to get you started on a successful open enrollment season! See our full presentation here at the end and I’ll be sharing our detailed health care reform presentation later in the week.

  • Keep it simple. Employees and their families can easily get lost in the legalese, the mailers and all the other tools and resources that make up benefits communication. And wait until they start reading about the legislative changes associated with health care reform. It can get overwhelming. Start by focusing in on what’s important now and answer the questions they are most concerned about.
  • Focus on employees and their families – and their personal needs. Your employees will need to know about the health care changes that affect them, on top of any open enrollment changes. Remember, you’re writing to people, not company executives, so take on their perspective in your communication.
  • Promote missed or under-utilized benefits. Your employees sometimes have time only to focus on the big features of their health plan – medical, dental and vision insurance. Unfortunately they may be missing out on some great opportunities to save money or live a healthier and happier life. Use annual enrollment to promote benefits that are under-used—whether they are part of open enrollment or not. When you tell people what they are missing out on, you’ll have a better chance of grabbing their attention.
  • Start using social media. Just like last year, we encourage you to start using social media tools to get information out more frequently and in a simple format for employees. Blogs, Twitter, LinkedIn and other tools are cost-effective and simple ways to create a dialogue with employees and their families not only during annual enrollment but all year. You don’t have to figure it out on your own. Our Social Media Starter Kit has everything you need to start using social media for benefits communication.
  • Listen to employees. Earlier we recommended your benefits message take on the employee perspective. Not sure what the employee point of view is? Just ask. You may be surprised what you hear, or it may help you fine-tune your messages.
  • Get managers in the game. Here is an opportunity to have your benefits message spread by people who can really have a positive impact on employees – the bosses. Employee benefits are a key reason you can attract and retain a top workforce, and bosses can really make a difference in motivating an employee. Give your managers the information and tools to start conversations with employees and answer questions.

Jennifer Benz is Chief Strategist and Founder of Benz Communications, a San Francisco-based consultancy that focuses on custom, comprehensive benefits and HR communications services. Jen is an active member of the Council for Communication Management, the International Association of Business Communicators, the Northern California Human Resources Association and Women in Consulting. Contact her at jen@benzcommunications.com.

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