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Summer 2014: Open Enrollment: A Chance to Educate and Promote

Open enrollment can foster an appreciation of company benefits, or result in confusion and anxiety.It may be the same event, same benefits, but result in an entirely different outcome – depending on the effectiveness of benefits communications.

With the right communications, open enrollment can help employees understand the value of their benefits and be more satisfied at work. This makes an effective benefits communication more than a service to employees; it becomes a smart investment as well.

So what constitutes an effective program? The answer lies not just in content, but also deployment. Here are some best practices to consider.

Communicate early and often
A well-planned communication campaign begins long before open enrollment. Employees need to know well in advance when the process will begin and what they should expect. If there are any significant changes in plan design, such as the introduction of a wellness offering or a consumer-driven health plan (CDHP), employees will need enough time to understand and evaluate changes in their personal contributions. Repetition is key, because employees won’t always read with their first opportunity. Communicate early. Communicate often. And continue to remind employees of key dates and action steps as open enrollment approaches.

Use a variety of media
There is no “right” way to communicate benefits, because preferences vary. Use various media during enrollment so employees can choose how to receive and review information. Online communications are efficient and cost effective, but many employees consider print information to be more valuable, and easier to read. By combining digital and print communications, you can offer employees access to information at home – often the point of decision – where they can more easily discuss options and make decisions with spouses and partners.
Make messages clear, concise, and user-friendly

Concise, easy-to-follow enrollment communications can help employees understand their benefit options better, leading to the best decisions for self and family. Print and on-line communications should be consistent in highlighting main points – a top-tier overview – and then provide ways to access more detailed information.

If you offer more than one plan, unify the comparison. Give employees an easy-to-read matrix that aligns key plan components of each benefit plan – plan levels, included benefits, costs, and, most importantly, any changes in cost or coverage from the previous year.Realize also that even the best communications won’t answer all questions. So be sure to tell employees where to go or whom to call for more information.

Share wellness resources and tools
Open enrollment isn’t just about insurance. It’s also the perfect time to share links and resources that promote better health and ways for individuals to manage health costs, regardless of coverage. Health risk assessments can provide employees with key insights to take charge of their health as well as choose the best plans based on their needs and lifestyle. Similarly, benefit calculators provide information on potential benefit costs. And wellness events like health fairs, flu shots, and biometric screenings not only enhance wellness, but also demonstrate your company investment in employee health.

Understand the financial impact
The benefit choices employees make during open enrollment should support their health and also make sense financially. There is no best choice for everyone. Employees with chronic health problems, for example, may be best served by a plan with a higher premium but lower copayment or deductible. Younger, healthier employees may opt for lower premiums with a plan that focuses on preventive care. Either way, education is key to making informed decisions and to maximize every benefit dollar.

Partner with a proven benefits communications specialist
Creating that optimal communications program takes time and experience, and the biggest challenge is how to start. Most companies don’t have all of the required skills on staff and a communications portfolio to draw from, or simply lack the time to invest in making one successful.

That’s where BeneCom can help. We’ve been solely dedicated to helping employers create benefits communications for more than 20 years, serving Fortune 100 as well as small companies. We have the knowledge and skill set to build a custom-tailored benefits communications program – with copywriting, design, audio, video and digital media development, print production, and more. No job is too big or small. Our goal is to provide effective, clearly written, competitively priced open enrollment programs, no matter what the scope of need.

Please contact us with any questions about this article or benefits communications in general.We’re happy to help!

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