That’s right, the title says get your employees EXCITED and ENGAGED about open enrollment this year. I know it’s August, but now is the time to start planning for open enrollment. Hopefully you have already met a time or two concerning your plan performance with either a broker or TPA and you likely are in wait mode until you get your final quotes in.
So instead of waiting until the last minute to plan everything, start putting together a strategy. I know I probably got a few eye rolls on the engaging part but it’s true. Instead of passing out the proverbial memo or sending a bunch of emails that no one is reading, make open enrollment something employees can get excited about. (Even if there isn’t much to be excited about these days)
With the ever-changing climate of Healthcare Reform and the Affordable Care Act’s future, employees are more engaged in their benefits than ever. Use this to your advantage to really sell all that you do for your employees around their benefits. Its also a great time to make employees feel like you are listening to them, even if listening is all next years budget allows for- and trust me I’ve been there! Here are a few ways that you can make this year’s open enrollment smooth and engaging:
Get ahead of the changes- good and bad
So maybe your plan experienced high claims and your renewal is out the roof. The company can’t take on more cost so something has to give, hello rate increases and plan changes. Employees may not like it, but they will understand if you explain to them the why part. Understanding the why behind the changes is especially important with the millennial bunch, but really, who doesn’t want to know why the changes are occurring.
Take the guess work out of what is changing by putting together a comparison sheet that explains the changes to co-insurance or co-pays. People will get upset no matter what, but explaining that you started with a 40% increase to the premiums and got it down to 15% by making changes at least helps people understand that you weren’t some heartless HR person who doesn’t care about employees. (okay, maybe that was just me called that) Don’t let open enrollment disengage employees, instead rally your message about we are in this crazy open enrollment thing together.
Yes, you must talk to your employees and even if you have less than stellar news to share, please, I beg you, do not hide in your office all of open enrollment! You laugh, but I would have HR generalists who would call out sick most of open enrollment or sit behind locked doors on conference calls the entire day and people would be gathered around the door! I know your other duties aren’t stopping because it’s open enrollment. If you can’t handle large crowds outside your door schedule time to hang out in the break room to take questions. Just be sure to cover all shifts.
Don’t forget to make sure the communication is consistent and often. Most employees feel like they don’t have enough information to make an informed decision during open enrollment. I used to put together a communications plan including exactly what, when and how we were going to communicate to employees. Share this plan with your management and operations teams. Define the key messages about the changes and how you want questions handled. I always preferred them to be sent to HR but if you are an HR department of one that might not be an option, so get your managers answering questions how you want them answered.
If you have a communications team, use them. I don’t know about you but I am hardly creative. To me typing something in Comic Sans MS constitutes a fun communication to me. If you use a brokerage firm, see what services they offer, don’t forget, you are paying them commissions. Smaller broker firms may not offer much else but larger ones may be able to help you draft some communications. And finally, If none of those are an option, there are companies out there who specializes in employee benefit communications. The possibilities are endless.
Make it fun!
So I promised you that we would talk about getting your employees excited for open enrollment. I had some employees who couldn’t wait to get into the employee portal and review and make changes. Some call them early adopters… or but to me they were my favorite employees. But not everyone is this enthusiastic about open enrollment, and if you are dealing with a lot of changes that could be perceived as negative you would want to take more of a empathetic tone. You are dealing with many types of employees who want to receive their information in different forms so give it to them. Some want videos, some want one on one time and others just want a newsletter and left alone. Offer lots of variety to keep them engaged.
If you are looking for some fun ideas, try playing some games like benefit bingo during a meeting or watch some funny (yet appropriate) videos that go with your open enrollment theme. If your employees don’t have much use for fun you can still make information interesting and engaging. If you are sending out a newsletter put in some extra credit questions hidden in it. Then instruct employees to submit their answers to HR and be placed in a drawing for a semi-fabulous prize to see if they read it. If you have group chats send out one to two sentences about a specific benefit, SMS texting works great for this too. And don’t forget the visual. Posters, postcards are all great, but if you are trying to be more green, change your company screen savers with some information about open enrollment.
Hopefully this post will get you thinking about doing a couple of new and engaging things to refresh your open enrollment. Remember this is a time to showcase what you do offer your employees. Make them excited about the good stuff, have fun where you can and most importantly help them understand why there are changes.