Follow this step-by-step guide for a more efficient and effective benefits enrollment process.
In Part 1 of this series, we explored the early stages of designing the communcations plan around your organization's Open Enrollment campaign. In Part 2, we look at executing and measuring the Open Enrollment campaign.
Now that you and your team are well organized, it's time to start rolling out the Open Enrollment campaign to your employees. Here are eight important steps to ensure that your team extracts the most value and engagement during this process.
1. Create awareness.
One to two weeks before the official open date, get open enrollment on people’s calendars. This ‘Get Ready’ email should include the ability to add calendar items for not only deadlines, but events prior to deadlines—like online information sessions.
2. Open the gates.
When open enrollment begins, send out your general announcement messages to each of your segments, new participants, experienced participants and non-participants. Tailor each message to fit the segment, but primarily stick to process and expectations. Let recipients know what to expect, provide links to detailed content pages and repeat the calendar item options.
3. Invite the family.
Shortly after the initial announcement, provide appropriate segments with the ability to opt-in family members to receive upcoming messages. This is simply a headline and link to an opt-in form. The family member will generally need to complete an email loop to be added to the list.
4. Provide education.
A couple of days after the general announcement, start your education process. Your employees generally don’t want to read dense packets of information in an email or wade through five file attachments. Distill benefits options into crisp, descriptive sentences and short lists of key bullet points (with links to details).
Tell stories about why an employee might select one plan over another. You will have different messages for different segments, such as a “Discover your new and different benefits options,” for more experienced personnel and perhaps, “How do I decide which plan is right for me?” for newbies. You can increase engagement by using more visuals and keeping messages to less than 500 words. If that means sending more than one message each day, that’s more effective than cramming 1,500 words into one email.
5. Respect employees' time.
It’s impolite to send campaign messages after an employee has completed the enrollment process. Take care to send a thank you note as soon as they complete the process and remove them from the campaign. If they still have the option to make changes prior to the deadline, let them know in the thank you message.
6. Send smart reminders.
You should pre-program three general reminders: a "mid-point" reminder, and "two days left" reminder and a "morning of" reminder. You can increase motivation by providing data within those messages, such as, "37 percent of employees completed open enrollment with the first three days." Depending on your tools, if you measure open enrollment engagement and track metrics, you may be able to customize reminders by linking to the next step (based on the recipient’s campaign behavior or feedback).
7. Provide situation-specific recommendations.
At this point in the campaign, the HR and Communications teams may see patterns of feedback and frequently asked questions. For any employees who have not completed the process, send out a message addressing these specific issues. You can generally assume that there are more silent people who have the same questions.
Use this same approach for any webinars, discussion groups or other Q&A activity. Don’t expect that just because the discussion and Q&A are on the intranet that employees will seek them out. It’s safer to send a proactive email with the answers to the three most common questions and link back to the full content.
8. Deadline push.
If employees haven’t made a decision by a certain date, follow up based on behavioral information. If you don’t know what action your employees have taken, you’re relegated to sending blanket reminders. This can waste time and irritate people.
For continuous improvement, you will want to run post-campaign surveys, analyze all your data, and compile a report complete with recommendations for what to change or do differently next year.
It’s useful to look at your data to see which campaign steps produced the most engagement and when certain groups of employees completed the process. You will likely discover additional segmentation and education opportunities.
The goal of an open enrollment campaign is not simply to get employees signed-up. It’s an opportunity to help employees become more satisfied with their benefits and feel good about the company. It’s an employee engagement opportunity you should make the most of.