Everyone dreads Open Enrollment! Just as you think about all the hard work of whether or not you are going to change the plan design and/or carriers and what the employee/employer premium split is going to be is done, it is time to communicate those decisions to employees. This step is not one that should be overlooked. Communication is just as important as the actual decisions. This is your time to not only let employees know they have the opportunity to make changes to their elections, but to let them know how much you care about them personally through the benefit packages you have designed for them. You have to carefully craft each communication so while ensuring they understand the plan changes and what is available to them they also feel like an individual and not just a number.
Tips to avoid potential problems with Open Enrollment:
- Develop a communications plan
- Understand the organization’s philosophy on benefits and what drives the plan designs so your messages align with that philosophy
- Connect with your employees by writing your communications as if you are speaking to a single individual
- The majority of your communications should be before Open Enrollment actually opens
- Keep it simple and use bullet points
- Do not assume employees understand the difference between plan choices and benefit options
- Have your broker develop a Benefit Guide that summarizes all of the benefits plans available that you can provide to all employees
- Use multiple methods of communication including: email; snail mail; newsletters; paystub stuffers; automated messages (if you have systems with the capability); and in-person and remote benefit overview sessions.
- Send several reminders to employees when Open Enrollment opens and as it comes to a close
Open Enrollment Meetings
- Schedule benefit overview meetings during times when employees will reasonably be able to attend
- Schedule at least one benefit overview meeting during the evening after work hours when the employee can join with his/her spouse who may be the one making the decisions on benefit elections for the household
At a very minimum, I recommend sending the following communications:
- Announcement that Open Enrollment is coming at least two weeks before Open Enrollment begins; Include a schedule of upcoming Open Enrollment Benefit Overview Meetings
- Meeting invites for the scheduled Open Enrollment Benefit Overview Meetings
- Communication outlining all of the plan changes and benefit summaries; Again, include a schedule of upcoming Open Enrollment Benefit Overview Meetings
- Announcement that Open Enrollment has begun
- A reminder that Open Enrollment is about to close
The more you communicate the more informed your employees will be and the fewer questions they will have, making the process much smoother for you. The amount of the communication will vary depending on a number of factors, including how many changes are being made and what those changes are. If you are unsure about what to communicate and when, however, I would always err on the side of over communicating! You want to ensure employees know it is Open Enrollment time and know the benefits you are investing in to help them meet their personal needs.
For more tips on communicating benefit information to employees, please click here to see another blog that was posted by my colleague. Still not sure how to get started? Click here for a draft communication you can tailor and send to your employees.