Communicating about open enrollment is essential to keepingemployees informed about their benefits choices and drivingparticipation.

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Most companies agree that it is important for employees tounderstand their benefits choices, but an alarmingly small numberof employees actually do.

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Related: Technology with a humantouch

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A recent survey by the International Foundation ofEmployee Benefit Plans found that only 19 percent of employees havea high level of understanding about their benefits packages, andnearly 49 percent do not understand their benefits materials.

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So how can you make sure the message is getting through? And howdo you find the time to plan, execute and follow up on acompany-wide communications campaign with everything else on yourplate?

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Related: The results are in: The 2016 employersurvey

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One answer is to treat open enrollment communications like afull-scale marketing campaign. In this four-part series, you’lllearn how to use best practices and proven marketing techniques toget the word out and boost engagement in open enrollment.

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We’ll cover four main topics based on this communicationstimeline, which divides the activities intotheir primary goals: planning, informing, energizing and followup.

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Image: PlanSource

It starts with a plan

Image: PlanSource
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As Don Draper once said: “Our worst fears lie in anticipation.”A good plan can belay those fears and give you confidence that youropen enrollment is going to run smoothly. Part one of our serieslooks at how to lay the groundwork and prepare for a successfulopen enrollment.

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Starting one month (or more) before open enrollment, you shouldget your communications plan together.

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To best accomplish this, you will want to determine which typesof communication make the most sense for your employees, the amountof resources you have and the duration of communications.

Demographics matter

A logical place to start is by getting to know the demographicsof your employee population.

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An employee’s age, education level, seniority, familycircumstances and other factors can make a big difference on howand what you should communicate to them.

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For example, new employees need more info than experiencedemployees. Millennials will read your texts but don’t count onemail catching them. You can get even more detailed by looking atthe communication preferences of executives, office staff andworkers in the field.

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One great way to find out employees’ communications preferencesis to simply ask. Depending on the size of your company, you couldconduct a brief survey online, do focus groups or even take a quickwalk around the office and ask a selection of employees.

Details matter

Once you know who you are communicating to and theirpreferences, it is time to start getting into the details. You’llwant to communicate in multiple ways to reach different subsets ofyour population, so map out who gets what and when.

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There are a lot of other things to consider as well. Do you wantto hold benefits meetings? Are you going to use print materials orrely on electronic communications? How will remote employees findout about their benefits?

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To make sure nothing falls through the cracks, build a timelinefor what you are going to communicate before, during and after openenrollment.

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It’s a good idea to include multiple touch points and integratedifferent media. You can even start drafting emails that you knowyou will need to send and draft text messages if you plan on usinga text messaging service. Some examples of email and text messagetemplates can be found here.

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Here are some of the other tasks to get done in the weeksleading up to open enrollment:

  • Choose a theme for the year so employees can easily recognizeyour open enrollment materials.

  • Select communication methods that best suit your employeepopulation.

  • Schedule benefits meetings for opportunities to meetface-to-face and answer questions.

  • Order printed materials - most people are visual learners, soposters and flyers can help get your message through.

  • Order text messaging service - if you have a younger or largelyremote population, texts are a great way to communicate.

  • Select benefits to feature in communications and explaincommonly misunderstood terms.

  • Develop a benefits guide detailing what is new and highlightingimportant benefits offerings.

Armed with a well-thought out plan, you are on the way to openenrollment success. Stay tuned for part two in our series:Inform & Create Awareness, which will cover how youcan put your plan into action in the weeks and days leading up toopen enrollment.

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