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Developing and Communicating Benefits Beyond Open Enrollment

POSTED ON 
July 25, 2023

Do you find your benefits communications starting and stopping with open enrollment? Then this blog post is for you! Benefits communication should be a year-round activity – where companies take advantage of any and every opportunity to remind their people of what’s available to them.    

But maintaining momentum before and after open enrollment season is a challenge that a lot of our client's face. The good news is many companies offer generous and comprehensive benefits programs with a bunch of opportunities and events each month.

Whether it's health insurance and retirement plans or paid time off and wellness programs or even employee assistance programs (EAPs) and professional development, there’s a lot of fodder to work with!  

The bad news is employees don’t know about them. So, how do we fix that?   

First, Understand the Importance of Benefits uTILIZATION

If employees aren’t using the benefits program, there are several implications that can arise for both employees and employers. This includes:  

For employees: 

  • Missed opportunities to act on cost savings  
  • Minimized attention to health and well-being  
  • Reduced engagement which can lead to negative impacts on productivity  

For employers: 

  • Decreased employee engagement  
  • Heightened financial strain and low return on investment  
  • Increased turnover  

The bottom line is that employers need to be proactive in their approach to highlighting their benefits program.  

THEN, Create a Holistic Benefits Strategy  

Before your company’s enrollment season begins, think through a benefits strategy for the year to help maintain momentum and ultimately enhance benefits engagement. Start with these three steps:    

1. Conduct Research  

Start by first understanding the needs and preferences of your employees to gauge how effective your current benefits are. If your benefits aren’t meeting your people where they are, any communications are going to fall flat. This research could include: 

  • Facilitating surveys, interviews or focus groups to gather feedback and insights regarding their current benefits satisfaction, preferences and challenges. 

    💡 PRO TIP: Consider factors such as age demographics, family status, health concerns and financial wellness.  
  • Understanding your employee segments' unique needs to create a diverse portfolio of benefits that addresses different aspects of employees' lives and aligns with organizational goals, such as talent attraction, retention and overall business objectives.  

    💡 PRO TIP: Consider a mix of traditional benefits like health insurance, retirement plans and paid time off, as well as emerging benefits such as flexible work arrangements, wellness programs, mental health support, financial education and professional development opportunities.   
  • Reviewing market trends to stay informed about current trends and best practices in employee benefits. This can help you identify emerging benefit trends and innovative solutions to enhance your strategy. 

    💡 PRO TIP: Consider industry benchmarks and competitive analysis to understand what other organizations are offering and how/where you choose to compete.  

2. PRIORITIZE COMMUNICATION 

Poor communication or a lack of education about your benefits program can contribute to employees not utilizing the offerings.   

“According to a survey by Harvard Business Review Analytic Services, 68% of the 238 organizations surveyed say employees don’t know enough about how to leverage their company-provided health benefits. More than half—58%—of organizations report that employees are unaware of the health benefits to which they are entitled.”  

This can include confusion around the:  

  • Technical terms used in benefit plans, such as HMOs, PPOs, FSA, HSA, etc. 
  • Plan details such as coverage limits, deductibles, copayments, and the extent of coverage for different services or medications. 
  • Impact of yearly changes to their benefits plan.   

To help employees better understand their benefits, develop a robust communication plan for your benefits strategy that can and should include open enrollment but also focuses on educating employees about key terminology and the benefits options available to them.   

Be sure to include multiple channels, such as emails, intranet portals, brochures and interactive sessions, to give employees access to the information they need to make informed decisions. We also work with our clients to develop employee personas to think through how they can tailor communications to distinct audience segments.   

💡 PRO TIP: Consider offering tools and resources to help employees navigate the benefits selection process. This could include online calculators, a glossary of terms, comparison charts, decision-support platforms, workshops or one-on-one consultations with benefits experts. Encourage employees to seek guidance to ensure they choose the benefits that best meet their individual needs. 

Download: How to Audit Your Internal Communications to Reach Your People

3. MONITOR EFFECTIVENESS  

And the final step is to regularly review and assess the effectiveness of your benefits strategy. Benefits’ needs and trends can evolve over time. That’s why it’s so important to stay proactive and agile in adapting your benefits strategy to meet changing employee expectations, market conditions and regulatory requirements.  

This can help you continue to attract and retain talent by allowing you to stay competitive when it comes to benefits, ultimately elevating your employer brand and positioning your company as an attractive employer.    

💡 PRO TIP: Consider monitoring metrics such as employee engagement, satisfaction, retention rates, and utilization of benefits.   

Benefits Is More Than Just Open Enrollment  

Remember, effective benefits communication requires a year-round approach that goes beyond open enrollment. By creating a holistic benefits strategy and implementing research-based communication plans, employers can maximize the value of their benefits program, improve employee well-being, and enhance overall organizational success.   

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Learn How to Rock Open Enrollment Communications This Year
Maira Sarwar-Sheikh
DIRECTOR, STRATEGY

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