While one-size-fits-all messaging is easier to write and distribute, it's not the most effective open enrollment campaign strategy. Strategic list targeting leads to more focused communications and higher employee engagement. If your objective is to help employees enroll in the best benefits programs for them, then you need to understand your target audiences and tailor your messages accordingly.
Employee groups at different stages of their lives and careers require different benefits. Likewise, each employee brings their own level of understanding of your programs. Your open enrollment messaging for new hires and young employees should be quite different from your messaging for long-term, senior employees.
By bundling all benefits information together, you require employees to figure out where they fit and what is appropriate for them. This often leads to feelings of confusion or of being overwhelmed or annoyed by irrelevant information.
When you distribute a tailored message to each group, your communications will better address the unique needs of your diverse employees and, more importantly, prove that your company understands and cares about those needs. By segmenting your audience, you build trust and optimize your open enrollment communication process.
4 ways to segment your audience
You will likely segment your internal audience based on two things: what you know about your employees and the benefits paths that fit best. Common audience segmentation criteria include sociodemographic factors (e.g., age, marital status), tenure, location and current benefits selections. To properly segment your audience and avoid assumptions and generalizations, you will need access to employee data. Here are four ways to segment based on that data:
Sociodemographics such as age and stage of life are often the most influential factors in selecting a benefits plan. For instance, a young employee who is thinking about starting a family has different concerns – and therefore requires different benefits – from someone who is recently divorced or someone planning to pay for their kids' college tuition. Segment these audiences into separate lists and prepare messaging tailored to their anticipated needs. When employees clearly see how a benefits package aligns with their life, engagement will improve.
Your open enrollment communications strategy should vary based on each employee's tenure with the company. New employees will likely need a basic introduction to your benefits program and enrollment process, plus a broad overview of your benefits options. On the other hand, an employee who has been with the company for 20 years has been there, done that. Rather than bore or annoy your senior employees with routine information they already know, develop a streamlined program that only addresses any changes since last year. Both audiences will be far more receptive and likely to complete the process earlier.
Open enrollment communications will look different for in-office employees, satellite office employees, remote employees in the field, manufacturing floor workers and employees who work from home. Employees who frequently work outside of the office have less access to managers and HR resources for in-person help. Particularly for the remote office and work-from-home segments, you may want to use more video. In a recent video communications case study involving 173,466 employees, 78 percent of employees who received a video email "postcard" related to benefits viewed the video at least once.
4. Current benefits
By categorizing people by what they have enrolled in and what they are not enrolled in, you can address segments who may have made poor selections or are not taking full advantage of what your company offers. People may not be aware of certain options they have within the programs they currently participate in. By identifying these groups and providing educational messages targeted specifically to their situations, you can achieve higher levels of benefits satisfaction and employee engagement.
Better follow-up for higher enrollment
Depending on the tools your company has in place, you may be able to measure employee behavior with your open enrollment campaign overall and for each audience segment. A typical open enrollment campaign consists of an announcement message with a dense array of information and numerous reminders right up to the deadline. Using communications interaction data, your campaign can be more responsive and effective.
You might resend information to those who ignored it the first time. You may send FAQ materials to those who have visited the benefits pages but have yet to make a decision. You might send deadline reminders only to those who have not completed enrollment. This type of follow-up campaign, while more challenging to construct, is more thoughtful and keeps employees more productive.
Once you understand how you want to segment your audience, get your hands on the data, which will generally come from your HR systems. You will want to export lists into spreadsheets, manipulate and organize them into your final lists, and import those into mailing lists. You might need some HR or IT help to create custom rules and logic. Even if you can't get as detailed as you want to this year, establish your processes, goals and data access requests to get an early start for next year.
Employee satisfaction and engagement ratings are often related to the employee benefits experience. It's important to help each employee understand their benefit options and make informed choices without experiencing decision fatigue or information overload. An effective way to accomplish this is to use data to segment your audience, design more targeted campaigns and ultimately create more effective communication programs for open enrollment.