You’ve planned. You’ve strategized. You’re ready to get things going, right? Congratulations, the countdown to Open Enrollment begins now.
It's about 12 weeks before open enrollment.
You’ll find this is a complicated time to start any benefit-specific communications, because we both know the finalization of your benefit package can sometimes (ehh, all the time) come down to the wire. While details are still firming up, this is a good time to generate some employee engagement. You'll want to push out some general communication and get started on some of the more complex and robust materials you’ll be needing in the coming weeks.
Give them a tickle.
I used to giggle (no pun intended) when I would hear people use the word ‘tickle’ in a professional setting. Tickle is what I do to my three-year-old, not to my employees!? But if you dig deep to the number 3 or 4 definition of “tickle” on Merriam-Webster, it starts to make a lot more sense. “To poke, to excite. To get something moving.” Helloooo. Let’s tickle.
Send out a “get excited” email.
In a perfect world, your employees are always fully engaged, and open enrollment might be top of mind. But in reality, its highly likely that they have lost track of what time of year it is, and will need an exciting (or gentle) reminder. Time to remind them!
If not much is changing from previous years, this communication can be as simple as the fact that your looking forward to an exciting open enrollment. If you’re considering a major change, like increased premiums or major benefit changes, this would be a good time to break the ice on the topic. If you’ve confirmed these details in advance, you can choose to be specific when delivering this news. Or, just let people know that it will be extra-important for them to spend time carefully considering their options this year, as plan details have significantly changed.
You can also use this opportunity to request feedback, but beware of doing this before you have painted a very clear picture, or you could flood your email inbox with panic.
Add a tagline to your email signature.
On a scale of 1 to impossible, this activity is about as easy to execute as they come. In the months leading up to Open Enrollment, have your HR department (or for smaller businesses, company managers) add a brief line just below their internal email signature that reinforces your upcoming activities.
People will engage with this reminder every time you email them. You’ll be planting the seeds for employees to be on the lookout for more information to come in the next few months.
Here are some examples you can use that become more specific as open enrollment draws closer, and an example of how I engaged our employees to get excited about an upcoming online event.
Get your big projects going.
Some tasks are easier than others. Smaller benefit decision support activities, like making a flyer or pushing out a text, are going to be easy to execute as you get into the thick of things down the road. But some of the larger tools take planning and preparation. If you haven’t already started on some of your bigger projects, it’s time to get going.
Evaluate and update your benefit guides.
If I were the betting kind, I’d put money on the fact that some of the feedback you received during your planning phase included “This information is too hard to understand!”
Why? Because it is!
It’s important to remember that your employees don’t work day-to-day with benefits the way we do, and the amount of information provided to them can be downright overwhelming. It’s important to make your benefits guides easy to understand and easy to use.
Here are some tips for a user-friendly guide:
Start an employee testimonial campaign.
An honest, first-person account of using a product or service is an extremely powerful communication tool. Getting your employees to talk about important benefits topics to their peers can be a great way for you to increase engagement.
Jane from accounting, who used her pet benefits to help pay for her labradoodle's unexpected health treatments, would love to share her experience with other dog moms. Joe from IT, who used his telemedicine benefit when he had the flu, definitely wants to tell you about how he didn’t wait hours around urgent care with a fever of 103 and saw a doctor from home.
It’s just human nature; people love to share their success and help others. A campaign like this can be a large strategic undertaking, so get started early (yes, now) on your content planning, and identify your:
Time is ticking away, but this should be enough to get you started, right? Need more? By our next installment you should have your dates and times of open enrollment locked down, and a much better understanding of your full benefit offering. At that point, it will be a good time to start developing messaging, creating content, and launching an open enrollment activity calendar. See you soon!
Author: Kate Grooms, Chief Engagement Officer
Before joining the Grooms Benefit Solutions team, Kate specialized in internal communications for global healthcare companies such as Johnson & Johnson, McNeil Consumer Healthcare, and Baxter.
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