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Planning for a Successful Open Enrollment

Any benefits or human resources professional who has been through an open enrollment season knows the importance of communications in ensuring that the process goes smoothly.   So, what can you do when you have a less than enthusiastic response during the open enrollment?

Given the complex array of benefit choices that employees face during open enrollment, communication and education have become a critically important component of a successful open enrollment.

"Employees want to know that their employer is listening to them," said Jennifer Taffaro, Benefits Consultant with HUB International Gulf South.  Jennifer strategizes with clients on how to develop effective communication and participates in open enrollment meetings.  "Employees appreciate their benefits more if they understand why decisions are made and how to use their benefits wisely," she said. 

Here are some tips from HUB International on how you can more effectively engage your employees during open enrollment:

Get a fresh perspective

Conduct informal employee conversations or focus groups to learn about your employees' experience during the previous open enrollment.   The information you get can help you better understand both the strengths and weaknesses of your current communication process.

Vary your communication channels

Distribute your message through a wide range of channels.  Electronic media, group meetings, webinars, and printed materials help take into account the differences in employee learning styles as well as generational preferences.  While some employees prefer face-to-face communication, others will readily utilize web tools.  Be sure to offer something for everyone.  If you have a younger or mobile workforce, consider including text messaging as part of your communication plan.

Communicate early and often

There's an old marketing adage called the "Rule of Seven", which claims that your target audience needs to see or hear your message at least seven times before they take action.  While that number isn't cast in stone, you should think about communicating your plan's benefits and special features on a monthly basis throughout the year in addition to your open enrollment communication.  For example, you can provide tips on how to reduce their out-of-pocket costs by making smarter healthcare decisions.

Find ways to involve spouses

Providing a website (not just an Intranet) that a spouse can log into at home is a great way to increase their involvement and access to information. Facebook and Twitter can also be effective ways to connect with employees and their families. 

According to a survey from the Guardian Life Insurance Company, almost half of employees spend little or no time reviewing their benefits options each year. On average, the survey found, employees spend 1.4 hours reviewing benefits selections, compared with the 2.8 hours they spend preparing and filing taxes and the 4.9 hours they spend on holiday shopping. The result is a basic misunderstanding of their group benefits.

Talk with your HUB benefits consultant about how you can enhance your open enrollment communication efforts.