The 3 R’s of Open Enrollment Success

With open enrollment approaching, you’ve probably spent a lot of energy creating the right blend of benefits for employees. Naturally, you want to give your people a great employee experience by helping them understand their options and make the best choices. Except, that can’t happen if employees ignore communications, miss enrollment deadlines, and fail to participate effectively.

Consider an Aflac survey indicating that two-thirds of employees say making sense of benefits is too complicated. What’s more, about 75% report that they don’t fully understand their coverage.

All of which is to say that your benefits may be good, but they’re only effective if they’re being used. For that to happen, employees need to understand what’s in it for them. Unfortunately, they often don’t.

Understanding and enacting communication fundamentals can help bridge the gap between plan creation and employee adoption, and enhance your employee value proposition (EVP). This is especially important given Mercer findings showing that only 2 in 5 employees believe their organization has a compelling EVP. Yet, a disconnect clearly exists, as 90% of CEOs say that they use their compensation and benefits strategy to build trust between employees and senior leadership, according to research by PwC.

Gaining precious mindshare from your employees has never been harder. An increasingly diverse mix of employees, information overload, a distributed workforce, and an explosion of mobile and digital options presents significant communication challenges.

But rather than view these challenges as problems, think of them as opportunities to engage your employees with your benefits. By embracing a marketing campaign-style approach to communicating benefits — using numerous channels and formats to deliver snackable, mobile, and meaningful messages, and then reinforcing them over time — you enable employees to get the right information at the right time, so they can make the right decisions for them.

The best strategy for accomplishing this starts with focusing on the 3 R’s of benefits communication: reach, relate, and reinforce.

1. Reach

As a variety of messages inside and outside of work constantly bombard people, breaking through noise and clutter has never been harder. Additionally, you have to communicate to multiple generations, in multiple locations, from multiple departments, with multiple needs. That’s why the most effective leaders recognize that it takes multiple types of communications delivered via multiple channels to reach people in ways that are accessible and meaningful to each individual employee. At GuideSpark, our most successful customers use a breadth of materials to engage their employees: emails, videos, PDFs, infographics, charts, checklists, FAQs, and town halls.

It’s equally important for people to have access to your content when, where, and how they choose. That means making sure employees can view information on their own time throughout their workday and beyond. Gone are the days when you can dictate to employees how they should engage with benefits. Today’s workforce demands that you cater to their communication habits, not the other way around.

2. Relate

When employees were asked by financial services firm Securian which emoji best describes their attitude toward open enrollment, more than half said they were indifferent, confused, overwhelmed, or annoyed. To be successful and inspire people to take action, your content must be accessible and relatable.

Article Continues Below

While it’s vital to use an assortment of formats and channels to connect with your people, a sure way to overwhelm employees is by throwing a kitchen sink of information at them. To ensure that the right content is going to the right people, marketers segment their communications by audience. Take a page from their playbook and divide your employees into multiple groups based on shared characteristics. Such traits may be demographic (related to age, gender, location, etc.) or psychographic (pertaining to attitudes, behaviors, and beliefs). Doing so will enable you to tailor specific messages to each group’s needs and wants for greater impact.

For example, you should communicate about 401(k)s and retirement benefits to Generation Z differently than you would baby boomers. Likewise, you should emphasize commuter benefits in locations where people tend to spend more money shuttling back and forth to work.

3. Reinforce

Remember the days when a single email directing people to enroll for benefits was able to achieve 100% participation? The reality is, such a time never really existed.

One-and-done (or two- or three-and-done) was never an effective benefits communication strategy. One reason is research showing that 1 in 5 employees — and almost one-third of those under 35 years old — admit that they have skipped HR presentations, ignored emails, or thrown away mailings without reading them.

Even those who do look at information are apt to forget it. People forget much of what they learn after one day — and forget even more after a week. Therefore, it’s crucial to be both consistent and persistent in your messaging to ensure that your audience will grasp your benefits and take action.

Consistency is particularly essential to aid people in understanding your overarching message about your benefits and how they tie to your company’s values.

Author is John Staines, CHRO and SVP of People and Culture at GuideSpark.

John is a seasoned HR leader, John has global executive experience at nationally recognized companies including PepsiCo, Mattel, The Gap, and Cigna. John has also led two start-ups and most recently has focused on helping organizations build an inclusive culture through the development of cultural agility competencies.
 
While at Cigna, John introduced skilled-based volunteering to one of his senior leadership programs. This cutting-edge approach to talent development was recognized as best in class by the Boston Globe, Northeastern University and Catalyst, a nonprofit organization that focuses on building “workplaces that work for women”.

John received his B.S. in Economics from the University of Wisconsin and his M.B.A. from the University of Michigan.

Topics