Open Enrollment Communications: Reaching & Engaging Employees during COVID19

This year, your employees may not be at a workplace. They may be working from home or somewhere else with a good Wi-Fi connection. They may be furloughed. They may be onsite but working in different shifts than before. Most likely, you will not have the same accessible and captive audience for open enrollment this year.

According to a recent Mercer survey, these are the top three changes that companies plan to make to this year’s open enrollment processes because of the pandemic:

  • Use different media/communication channels since employees may be dispersed (32%)
  • Implement virtual health fairs (25%)
  • Create new messaging to help employees consider how the pandemic might affect their usual benefit choices (20%)

Thinking through your media/communication channels – with an emphasis on digital tools – as well and your messaging, timing, and the look and feel of your open enrollment communications will be especially important this year.

Need help getting started? Here are four tips for reaching and engaging your workforce during open enrollment:

  1. Develop your communication strategy – now. It all starts with a comprehensive, thoughtful, and engaging communication strategy. Start early and consider what enrollment will look like for your company this year. You may need to communicate earlier than usual to allow time for the distribution process (if it changed) and to provide adequate time for employees to consider their options. Deploy your leadership in a visible way so that employees understand the linkage between benefit decisions and business needs.
  2. Go where the people are. Some organizations are adjusting to a work from home environment without the option to hold in-person meetings. For employees who are working onsite, meetings may need to be conducted with very different ground rules, such as capacity limits and physical distancing. Employers will need to be creative in getting open enrollment information into the hands of their workforce. Digital communication tools can play a critical role in bridging the gap, so you may want to consider a benefits website, app, text messaging, and a virtual meeting/benefits fair.
  3. Consider your key messages and media. Even if you are not making many changes to benefits or employee contributions, employees may still feel anxious if their circumstances have changed and they are likely to have more questions and concerns this year. Creating personas that represent your employee population can help you understand your audience, anticipate their questions and concerns, and target your communications. Keep the employee experience at the core as you map out your communication plan. Your messaging (and imagery) should be relevant and empathetic. Provide clear and timely information, decision updates, and employee to-do’s – the more you can help focus their thinking, the greater ability their ability to make good decisions. And plan for more repetition to help ensure the message is getting through – over-communication is not the issue.
  4. Listen and iterate. Do you know what is top of mind for your employees leading into this enrollment season? What about managers – a critical link to your workforce – and leaders? Using pulse technology or sensing tool can be a great way to quickly gain insight and target your messages. As you embark on open enrollment, using some form of ongoing survey or feedback mechanism will allow you to find out if you are hitting the mark with your media/channels and messaging – and reaching people in an effective way. This will help you be nimble and flexible, and make real-time impact during the enrollment season.

For additional ideas to jumpstart your open enrollment communication strategy, check out our Open Enrollment Communications Guide

Visit our open enrollment web page for more insights and tools. 

Rhonda Newman
by Rhonda Newman

Senior Partner

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