In the first two installments of our open enrollment communications series, we looked at the importance of planning ahead and what activities to undertake prior to the start of your enrollment period.
Now it is time for the big event! Open enrollment is starting and it is time to put all your meticulous planning into practice.
At this stage, your communications should be focusing on accomplishing a singular goal: informing employees about the benefits options they have available and getting them to enroll.
It’s time to energize!
An email a day keeps the doctor away (or will at least explain whether the doctor is in or out of network…)
To encourage action, you have to keep open enrollment top of mind for your employees. Now is not the time to be shy.
We recommend sending a gentle reminder email and/or text message every day during your enrollment period.
Start on day one with a “Benefits Enrollment is Open” announcement and explain how employees should enroll. Include a clear call to action with links and login instructions to your online benefits platform if you are using one. You should include this information in every communication you send.
As open enrollment progresses, take the opportunity to educate employees about their plan options and coverage details. Short “Did you know?” messages are perfect for this type of communication and will catch the recipient’s attention.
Daily emails may seem like a lot of work, but it will really pay off in terms of participation rates. To make it a bit easier, you can download example email templates here.
Explain the consequences of enrollment
In your initial communications, and towards the end of your enrollment period, you should remind employees of what will happen if they do not enroll. Spell it out. Now is not the time to mince words. If you are using an active enrollment strategy, explain to employees that if they don’t enroll, they will lose coverage. Many people assume their benefits automatically roll over from year to year, so, if that is not the case, it is very important that you communicate it.
And even if you are using a passive enrollment strategy in which benefits do roll over, you should encourage employees to review their information, take a look at any new plans and confirm that their benefits choices are still right for them.
Motivate through education
Open enrollment can seem overwhelming for many employees, and as a result many put off enrolling until the last minute.
This is in part due to the fact that they don’t fully understand what is being offered to them.
And who can blame them? This is confusing stuff.
A recent study found that only 7% of Americans could define the four basic benefits concepts: plan premium, deductible, coinsurance and out-of-pocket maximum.
So as open enrollment gets under way, you have an excellent opportunity to educate employees on various benefits concepts and terminology. This will lift the fog of confusion surrounding different types of insurance plans, which will help employees make better benefits choices and spur them to action.
It can be especially helpful to explain any voluntary benefits you offer.
For example, let’s say your company offers voluntary hospital insurance at a very reasonable cost to employees. Sounds like a great deal, but for your employees to understand why they should consider this type of insurance, they need to know what it’s about.
So in one of your daily emails, explain that hospital insurance covers a lot of things that most medical plans do not, including deductibles, copays, and other out-of-pocket expenses. You can keep your emails short by linking to educational videos, such as these, that explain various concepts.
By making it clear to employees what they are getting into, they will be more likely to jump in and start enrolling and will make more informed choices.
The final countdown!
As your open enrollment period is nearing an end, it’s time to turn up the pressure. Include a countdown in your emails to impart a sense of urgency. Use bold subject lines and be very direct in your messaging.
If you can see which employees have not enrolled yet, stalking is completely appropriate! Send them individual emails urging them to get a move on.
Some enrollment systems can automate the process of emailing just those employees who have not completed their open enrollment. In the final two or three days before open enrollment finishes, make sure to remind employees again of what will happen if they don’t enroll.
Keep these final communications short, with only the most vital information on how and where to enroll.
With a little persistence and a bit of creative communications, you will finish open enrollment with record participation rates. But you’re not quite done! Stay tuned for the final installment of our series: Follow up.