How to Adapt for Open Enrollment in 2020

Like many other things this year, open enrollment season is going to look very different in 2020. Instead of in-person benefit fairs and company-wide meetings, Human Resources professionals will be forced to communicate their benefit programs in new and creative ways. This could present challenges and barriers to an already cumbersome, complicated and crucial initiative.

Forward thinking organizations understand the importance of their employee benefit offerings. As those offerings are key tools to attract and retain top talent, it’s no surprise the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that benefits account for 30% to 38% of employers’ total compensation budgets.

Furthermore, if you’ve ever wondered how employees feel about their benefits, here are a few noteworthy insights from MetLife’s Employee Benefits Trend Study:

  • 83% of employees said they would take a 3.6% pay cut for a better choice of benefits
  • 62% of employees said benefits were an important reason they accepted a job
  • 73% of employees said they believe the right benefits increase loyalty to their employer

And that was before the COVID-19 pandemic hit. In a recent survey by Prudential Financial to understand employee needs and perspectives ahead of the 2020 annual enrollment period, employed respondents overwhelmingly said their benefits programs make up a key part of their compensation (77%, up from 67% from a year ago) and are a big reason they would stay at a job (73% vs 59%).

Clearly, having the right benefits matter to employees – a lot. But this raises a question that continually vexes employers: if benefits matter so much, why do employees rarely utilize them to their full advantage? According to a Harris Poll, only 28% of American workers are very confident they’re using their benefits to their fullest potential.

The vast majority of employees need help in understanding the value of their benefits and putting them to use properly. When you add in all the new and unprecedented challenges employees are facing now, this year’s open enrollment season is more important than ever.

How to Adapt for Open Enrollment in 2020

Benefit education is vital for employers to maximize utilization and ROI for these programs. Here are some ideas to help your organization communicate your employee benefit programs to the fullest.

Go Digital
In a socially distanced world, for most organizations traditional in-person benefits fairs aren’t a safe option. But you don’t have to forgo a benefits fair altogether during open enrollment. Many employers are taking the experience virtual, utilizing platforms that have become the new normal to gather and educate employees. There are even platforms to support these events in a central digital hub where communications can be posted, employees can browse through various benefits at their leisure, and forums offer the chance to answer questions – potentially even encouraging education where employees might not have sought answers in-person. These virtual events also have the added value of metrics, from clicks and engagement to downloads and more, these insights can help drive how you plan and communicate your benefit offerings for years to come.

It’s also time to embrace electronic communications. While a long tradition of printed benefit packets during open enrollment is common, this year employers need to focus on emails, intranet postings and any other digital means necessary. An advantage of this medium is employees can visit and revisit as needed, long after a printed flyer might have gotten lost or tossed.

Some other great options are distributing benefit videos and hosting webinars that can be recorded and viewed on demand. Engaging employees where and when they are ready is a great way to really break through and engage.

Meet Employees Where They Are
As organizations nationwide vary from remote work to socially distant on-site work environments, or hybrids of both, there can be a challenge to educate the entire workforce. It’s important to consider your employees work environments and customize the communication plan accordingly.

Benefits communication plans cannot be a one-size fits all approach to be successful. For example, if your staff is on-site, consider high traffic areas to post and reinforce benefit communications. Add QR codes to messages that can enhance no-contact education, linking to additional information and tools that otherwise may have been missed. If your workers are remote, establish a communication cadence digitally that will reach them at home. Take time to evaluate where and when the message will have the most impact.

Customize To Your Population’s Personas
Understanding your employees needs and challenges is a basic principal to employee benefit utilization. That’s why it’s vital to customize not only your benefit package, but the way you communicate to your target audience. You will need to decide which channels will be the most effective for reaching the various segments of your employee population, how frequently to communicate and exactly when to communicate.

Do you have a large population of parents? Is your workforce largely millennials? Are your employees in the sandwich generation caring for families and their aging loved ones?

By directing your open enrollment messaging to hit on what your employees are interested in most and the unique challenges they are facing, you can capture their attention and ensure that they are understanding and utilizing your benefit package.

While these are just a few ideas, there are so many ways to tailor your communication plan to successfully manage your benefits communications. In fact, at LifeCare we have a dedicated team of experts that support our clients to execute best-in-class messaging for their LifeCare benefits, help determine the most effective messages and methods, customize a LifeCare benefit communication plan for our client’s specific needs and create and target messages that are optimized for their organization. If you’d like to discuss your company’s benefits utilization and communication challenges and planning, contact us here or call us at 866-675-3751.