8 Principles For Communicating to Employees About Open Enrollment

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Sep 15, 2011

Annual enrollment can be a crazy time, particularly if you come to the planning process late.

When advising clients, here are the 8 guiding principles I recommend for annual enrollment communications. These, tequila (vast quantities of tequila), and an aerobed usually do the trick.

  1. Combine your expertise with employees’ needs. Don’t shy away from providing direction. Use your expertise to identify what questions employees need to answer and where they may fall short. Then guide employees to the right plan with interactive tools that prompt and direct decision making.
  2. Focus, focus, focus. Keep the language simple, the information personalized, the steps few.
  3. Make meaningful help available. Don’t disappear, like that toll-free customer service number on many websites. Free up resources for face-to-face meetings. Create an email help desk to address questions. Use Twitter for on-the-spot customer service. Invite comments and questions on your benefits blog.
  4. Open the process to families. Many employees aren’t the sole decision maker. Invite family members to face-to-face meetings. Direct communications to them.
  5. Integrate wellness into the annual enrollment process. People are attuned to their health and potential risks during annual enrollment. Make completion of a health risk assessment one of the steps to enrollment, flag services that address these risks in confirmation statements, and address wellness in employee meetings.
  6. Use social media to inform and support. Connect employees to one another for reviews, recommendations, motivation, and support — peer-to-peer communication is far more trusted than company-to-employee. Use the variety of social media tools to reach family members, deliver quick “sound bites” about available benefits and deadlines, share personal stories, direct employees to partner organizations, engage in conversation, and unearth gaps in understanding.
  7. Enlist supporting players. Leaders, HR, day-to-day managers, and peers are vital audiences. They set the tone, free up the time and resources, and serve as ambassadors. Engage them through annual enrollment and beyond using direct email, Webex calls, tailored forums and social networks, e-newsletters, and customized training.
  8. Continue past annual enrollment. Annual enrollment is only about choosing benefits. The rest of the year, employees and their family members need to use them well. Create annual enrollment communications that’ll drive good choices, and then communicate year-round. That’s where the ROI lies.

Any I missed?

This was originally published on Fran Melmed’s Free-Range Communication blog.

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