Autumn is here, the leaves are changing, and before you know it, a new year will start. For many employers, a rapidly approach new year means annual benefits open enrollment meetings.
But it seems like every year, it’s more difficult to get employees to attend the meetings, pay attention, and learn how they can make the most of their benefits.
All the while, the push to consumer-driven healthcare is making things more complicated. From HSAs and HDHPs to HRAs and Limited Purpose FSAs, how are employees supposed to take full advantage of the great benefits you offer if they don't take the time to learn about these new products and services? Perhaps it’s time to try something new to spice up your annual open enrollment and really engage your employees.
Here are four ideas to try to mix things up with your benefits open enrollment this year.
1. Go Digital.
For better or worse, mobile devices are in our hands throughout the day. Take advantage of employees connectivity with their phones by reaching out to them through several communication platforms. Here are some options:
- Send a text message telling employees that open enrollment is coming and reminding them to read their product literature and talk to their spouses so they’ll be ready to enroll.
- Ask them questions via email beforehand, as well as during the meeting. Try a Poll Everywhere, Kahoot, or Google Forms format to engage employees and encourage participation. These tools allow employees to answer questions anonymously while you tally responses. This is a great way to find out, in real time, which topics merit more attention, especially if employees demonstrate a lack of understanding about a particular benefit.
- Use social media to engage staff. Tweet employee meeting information with a call to action in 140 characters or less. Share videos or articles explaining complex topics such as HSAs and HDHPs on Facebook or LinkedIn. Use Facebook Live to present and discuss information, then interact with remote employees who are watching online.
- Use your company blog to explain different aspects of your benefits portfolio and how many of them are designed to work together. Be sure to allow questions and comments on the blog and make sure to be attentive and responsive to employee concerns. Have different people on your leadership team write blog posts from different points of view. A CFO will have different information to share than an HR Director or even a CEO.
Click here to learn more about The JP Griffin Group evidence-based best practices to heighten employee engagement.
2. Go Live.
Many employees still appreciate live, in-person interactions from traditional benefits open enrollment meetings, but that doesn’t mean they have to be boring. Consider changing things up to offer something more unique and exciting.
- Invite guest speakers to present on various topics. These days, a great choice is an HSA Administrator like HealthEquity who can describe the benefits of health savings accounts (which are rapidly growing in popularity and have all sorts of unique savings benefits)
- Host "Lunch & Learn" sessions where staff members come in for an educational session on pre-scheduled topics or an open Q&A. Stream these live on Facebook and make them available for viewing at a later time. Allow spouses and other dependents to attend.
- Host a Health Fair and invite family members to join in the fun. Have tables set up for brokers or carriers and presenters that will provide valuable information for the whole family. You could provide healthy snacks and educational materials to teach families about the role nutrition plays in their overall health. Be sure to have drawings for door prizes, fun kids activities (like crayons and pages they can color) and plenty of swag to take home.
- Present webinars at different times and on various topics, but be sure to have these available on-demand as well. Employees may wish to watch live to and ask questions, or possibly review information later on with another household decision maker.
- Offer demos, live support, and instruction on how to log onto your online health portal (or health insurance carrier’s website), compare options, and make selections or changes for those employees who need a little more guidance.
3. Go Home.
If your employee benefits open enrollment is available to spouses, dependents, or domestic partners, you’ll want to provide information your workforce can take home.
- Make sure all webinars are available outside of the office intranet. It does employees and their partners little good if they can only view webinars while at work.
- Record meetings or daytime learning opportunities and make them available online. This is an easy thing to do, and can be extremely beneficial for second shift or evening workers. Making recordings available will also help employees who were ill that day or taking a planned vacation. If you’re looking for an inexpensive and easy way to do this without making the information public, upload the videos to YouTube, and leave them as “unlisted”. This way only people with the direct link can view the video.
- Provide printed handouts and comprehensive benefit guides at health fairs and meetings. These handouts should include any cost comparisons you showcased during the events.
- Make HR representatives available to spouses at home, who may be confused by printed handouts. Health insurance is complicated enough without contending with communication issues between employees and their spouses. Designate an HR professional to field questions from home and include that person’s business card on all communication that goes home with employees.
- Include links to formularies and doctor lists in the documentation (both printed and emailed). If employees are considering switching plans or your company is switching carriers, these will be two of the major documents most useful to family members concerned about whether they can keep their doctor and/or if their medication is still covered. Answers to these questions can help your employees make more informed decisions during benefits open enrollment and relieve anxiety by addressing any unknowns upfront.
4. Just Get it Out There!
Provide ongoing and consistent marketing and promotion for benefits open enrollment. Get the information out there and in front of your staff at every opportunity.
- Mention benefits open enrollment and any related events on every method of internal communication, even if it’s multiple outlets, like email, newsletters, posters in the break room, Yammer, Slack, and even your email signature line.
- Provide several options to consume information and ask questions — by video, webinar, text, or good old-fashioned paper.
- Make it easy to find instructions on how and where to sign up. End each electronic communication with a call-to-action and a clickable link. Make sure the web URL is easy to remember and spell.
- Offer incentives, prizes, and meaningful learning. Testimonials from fellow staff members with real-world examples and cost comparisons of expenses with and without insurance can speak volumes to employees who may be considering foregoing insurance due to cost concerns.
- Show side-by-side comparisons of different plan options, and offer "try it and see" examples. Comparing line items of each insurance option, balanced against total cost, can prove invaluable in the decision-making process. Likewise, the millennial who just started working may not see the benefit of putting three percent of their paycheck into a 401(k) until you show them how much money they will have saved at the end of 10 years, especially if you provide a matching program.
Employee Benefits Open Enrollment Tips
So many people (both in and out of HR) groan when it comes time for benefits open enrollment, but it just doesn’t have to be that way. With a little bit of planning, you can make the enrollment process far easier and a lot more engaging.
While some of these ideas may take a bit more time and expertise, many are not particularly involved, nor time consuming. Mostly, it’s about attention to detail and anticipating what your employees and their families might want or need to make the necessary decisions that will affect the next year of their lives.
Need help creating more engaging benefits open enrollments for your firm? Schedule a complimentary benefits review today.
About JP Griffin Group
At the JP Griffin Group, we’re committed to helping you create a benefits program that supports and engages your staff. Annual benefits open enrollment is just one part of the package we can provide. Contact us for more customized tips on how to spice up your annual enrollment process!
*Editor's Note: This post was originally published December 8, 2016.