Although this may elicit a few groans, it’s never too early to start prepping for open enrollment. It can certainly be a stressful and confusing time for management and employees alike, but getting an early start can help keep the grumbling to a minimum. Just remember, communicating during open enrollment goes beyond choosing a health plan, it’s the perfect opportunity to connect with your employees. You can influence how they see their benefits or upcoming cost changes, motivate healthy behaviors and influence savings habits.

Tell it like it is.

This especially important if you’re expecting big changes to your plan or sizable cost increases. Don’t sugarcoat bad news with clever copy or try to spin the issue into a positive. Your employees will see right through it. Even if you don’t have all the details, you’ll want to get out in front of the issue and give your employees a heads-up. Get their input on what they like and dislike about the plan so they know their concerns are being heard and taken into consideration.

Get to know your employees

If you haven’t done so already, getting to know your employees better will help you get your messages out. You can find out what level of understanding they have around their benefits and their preferred methods of communication through a quick email survey. It’s also important to consider generational differences, baby boomers often prefer face-to-face meetings, phone calls, direct mail and detailed educational materials, whereas millennials are more likely to engage with emails, videos, text messages and social media.

Develop key messages

Once you know your employees better, it’s time to figure out what you want to say. Remember, open enrollment is often stressful and confusing for employees. The pressure to make a decision that could significantly affect their personal finances causes many employees to re-enroll in the same benefits each year, often missing the opportunity to save money. The more specific you can be about a benefit’s relevance, convenience, and potential savings, the better. But make sure not to overdo it with jargon filled and lengthy content. You need to have all the details available, but keep key messages and “what you need to do for enrollment” information central to the enrollment materials.

Track and measure your goals

Whether you want to introduce a new benefit program, increase enrollment or simply educate employees about their benefits options, creating goals will provide structure to your campaign by giving you something to work toward. Identifying concrete benchmarks — such as convincing 75% of employees to view a wellness program video — will provide you with metrics to measure your success. In setting these measurable goals, you gain insights into your benefits package and communications plan that will be invaluable for planning an even better open enrollment season next year.

Post-enrollment and beyond

Open enrollment is over, now what? A strong benefits campaign engages employees all year. Whether the plan is new or not, a Welcome to the Plan guide highlighting how the plan works, important contacts, and the many programs and services offered through the plan or the company, is a great way to start. If you engage employees year-round with a steady flow of communications, they familiarize themselves with their benefits program at their own pace, relieving some of the pressure perceived during open enrollment crunch time.

Your Communications Strategy

You need to communicate during open enrollment as often as possible and in as many ways as the budget will allow. A combination of multimedia and printed materials that provides different methods for employees and their families to watch videos or webinars, read detailed benefits materials, review infographics, use “hands-on” decision tools, read Q &A’s and consider real life scenarios, helps employees recognize the value of the benefit and make better benefits decisions.

Timing and Frequency

Typically, an open enrollment communications campaign has a 12- 16-week schedule. One tried and true method is to establish a timeline working backwards from the date that the information must be completed, then work forward to deliver the communications program. Employees need time to consider their options and absorb the information and often important dates get forgotten. Make sure to send a variety of print and/or email reminders so that the enrollment process is completed on time.

The Lift Factor Can Help

The Lift Factor works with many health insurance clients on employee benefits and wellness communications campaigns and strategies, and we can help you, too. Insurance marketing is all we do. We understand the complex and ever changing landscape of benefits communications, so you’ll never have to spend time getting us up to speed.

Contact us today to see how we can help you build a communications strategy tailored specifically to your needs. See our work.