Choosing health care benefits can be a daunting task, especially when plans change from year to year, and it takes an advanced degree to interpret medical terminology. Your job as a communicator is to demystify open enrollment communications and allow employees to be informed consumers.
We all know that the first two questions employees will ask are: “What’s different this year?” and “How much will it cost me?” Help employees make good choices by following some best practices for open enrollment communications:
1. Announce the enrollment period and deadline early and often.
Colored postcards, digital signs, posters, and prominent banners or countdown clocks on the company intranet are all good vehicles for posting this basic information. On a similar note, give employees plenty of time to review their plan options before having to select their benefits.
2. Send email reminders during the last week of enrollment.
People procrastinate. They worry about making the right choice and put it off. They get busy, they get sick, or they just plain forget. Email or text reminders can spur action. And here’s a bonus tip for you: Include administrative assistants in these reminders! Busy executives are often the last to make their selections, so enlist the help of their right hands to get deadlines on the calendar.
3. Use all the communications channels at your disposal.
Amazingly, a handful of employees will report that they had no idea enrollment was going on, no matter what you do. But you can cut through the clutter with giant posters at the employee entrance or banner messages on the intranet. Also, don’t forget the staff at your on-site clinic, pharmacy, or fitness center; they usually field benefits questions, so keep them informed of plan and incentive changes.
4. Provide opportunities to ask questions.
Giving employees the opportunity to speak directly with a benefits expert allows them to address their specific needs, and you can avoid having to spell out every single scenario in every single message to the masses. Meetings, hotlines, and even instant messaging give employees direct, confidential access to the information they seek.
5. Make benefits information available to spouses and domestic partners.
Health benefits are a significant investment, so make it easy for families to understand and discuss their options. Health fairs, home mailings, and websites provide ways to deliver information into employees’ homes.
6. Define all those acronyms.
FSA, HSA, HRA – they’re confusing, and employees who could benefit from them miss out on significant savings because they simply don’t understand what the options are or how to use the benefits to their advantage.
7. Keep it simple.
Those acronyms aren’t the only things causing confusion. The health care industry is full of intimidating jargon. (Seriously, why can’t we say “doctor” instead of “physician”?) Always choose the simplest wording, and don’t be afraid to push your subject matter experts in the benefits department for clearer explanations. If you can’t explain something in plain language, employees sure won’t understand it, either, and they’re the ones who will miss out.
Communicating about health and wellness isn’t easy, but it’s meaningful work. Your communications pieces do some pretty powerful stuff by allowing people to make informed choices that protect the health and financial wellbeing of their families for an entire year. Not bad for a few months’ work, right?
Now that you’ve gotten a best practices primer in open enrollment communications, you may crave tips for adding pizazz to your campaign. Check out “3 Successful Communication Strategies You Should Ignore (Sometimes)" for pointers that liven up your communications.
Could you use some help with employee communications? We can work with you to build a communications plan that meets your needs.