Benefits matter to employees. In fact, offering attractive benefits is one of the best ways to attract and retain talent – but only if your employees understand the benefits available to them. Therefore, effective open enrollment communication is of vital importance.
Below are a few tips to optimize your open enrollment communication plan.
1. Give Employees (and COBRA Participants) Time and an Action Plan.
No one likes to feel rushed. Give employees and COBRA participants plenty of notice of the upcoming open enrollment period. Emphasize the importance of the benefits planning process and encourage team members to set aside some time for it.
Many people don’t intuitively know how to choose the right benefits, so consider providing a checklist/timeline outlining steps in the process, such as:
- Review changes to current plan (assuming they’re already enrolled)
- Discuss coverage needs, upcoming planned treatments and monthly budget with family members
- Compare other options by looking at two or three common treatment scenarios and how each plan would cover them
- Check provider networks to ensure family doctors are included
- Contact available resources to answer any remaining questions
- Complete and submit enrollment paperwork
Once you send out the information, don’t consider your job done. Send communication every week to inform your team of key timelines, meetings and resources available and showcase new benefits options. In the final week of open enrollment, plan to communicate daily.
2. Provide Clear and Varied Communication.
Don’t leave your employees on their own to figure out the details of various benefit plans. Provide clear explanations, and do so in ways that appeal to different types of learners.
If there are any changes in benefit offerings between this year and the previous, be sure to highlight those. Any jargon – terms like deductible and coinsurance, for example – should be defined.
How you communicate this information is also important. Different people like to receive information in different ways. Some of the variation can be attributed to generational differences. Even within a generation, however, you’ll find variations in the ways people prefer to learn and communicate.
To reach everyone, provide initial information and reminders using different methods:
- Provide printed instructions with charts and visuals aids to illustrate choices.
- Facilitate group in-person communication to encourage questions and discussion.
- Send emails, text messages and social posts. Younger workers are especially likely to appreciate reminders via text message and materials they can access on a smartphone.
3. Highlight Ancillary Benefits.
Health care gets a lot of attention, and rightly so. As health care costs rise, both employees and employers feel the pinch. According to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, national health spending is expected to increase at a rate of 5.6 percent per year until 2025. Because health care is both essential and increasingly expensive, selecting the best plan is of the utmost importance.
Nevertheless, don’t forget to discuss the other benefits available to employees. This could include standard options, such as life, vision or dental insurance, or more unusual perks, such as pet insurance or financial wellness benefits. Invite carrier representatives into your workplace for a series of brown bag lunches to share information about the various plans available.
The Bottom Line
Good benefit communication is good for your bottom line because it helps retain talent. Make sure employees know everything that’s available to them. If no one knows about a benefit, no one can benefit from it.
Lastly, don’t forget your COBRA participants. According to the Department of Labor: Qualified beneficiaries must be offered coverage identical to that available to similarly situated beneficiaries who are not receiving COBRA coverage under the plan (generally, the same coverage that the qualified beneficiary had immediately before qualifying for continuation coverage). A change in the benefits under the plan for the active employees will also apply to qualified beneficiaries. Qualified beneficiaries must be allowed to make the same choices given to non-COBRA beneficiaries under the plan, such as during periods of open enrollment by the plan.