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Ah, open enrollment season! For many companies who renew their benefits on a calendar year, the start of fall represents an exciting, yet stressful, time in which HR leaders are tasked with reviewing, projecting, and confirming the benefits that will service employees for the subsequent year. Despite the heavy work and long hours that go into these important decisions, open enrollment is also an incredible and valued opportunity for Human Resource leaders to get in front of employees to communicate the, often misunderstood, benefit options available to them.
With that said, the process of “communicating” benefits has become no easy task: dispersed workforces and remote employees, meeting-filled schedules, and a diverse group of people with unique needs, all create quite a complex scenario for HR leaders to relay this information to all employees effectively. Traditional approaches like in-person open enrollment meetings and flyers posted in the break-room are now needing to be replaced with innovative, high-tech solutions that enable them to access benefit information where they are, and when they need it. However, with many employers limited by minimal budgets and bandwidth in this area, this can be quite the challenge.
Working in the benefit consulting industry for many years, I’d like to share a few of the most effective approaches I’ve seen to leverage technology to effectively communicate benefits with employees.
Tip #1: Leverage and challenge the innovation of your insurance carriers.
One of the biggest complaints I constantly hear from clients is that their vendors and programs are highly underutilized by employees. This is primarily routed in the fact that most insurance carrier programs have typically fallen a bit behind the curve when it comes to providing high-tech resources. Yet, I’m happy to report that times are changing. The majority of carriers now have a mobile app, provide telemedicine medical and psychological services, and have invested a great deal of money and effort into providing webinars, videos, and hyperlinked material that highlight these resources and make them more easily accessible.
"Employees should be encouraged to download their carrier mobile app for easy access to the programs available to them, ID cards, understand deductibles, and more"
Make your open enrollment not tech-friendly, but tech-forward.
Employees should be encouraged to download their carrier mobile app for easy access to understand programs available to them, ID cards, understand deductibles, and more. When done prior to the end of the plan year, this provides an important education opportunity for employees to explore and better understand how they used (or didn’t use) their current insurance and enable them to ask more appropriate questions to pick the best plan moving forward.
Incorporate carrier videos into your open enrollment. A departure from traditional PowerPoint slides that often result in employees “zoning-out,” technology filled presentations that resonate with topics and emotions employees share can be much more effective. Take for example, Kaiser’s mental health “Find Your Words” campaign, Anthem’s “ER vs Emergency Room” costs video, or Cigna’s “1 in 5” opioid awareness video series.
Tip #2: Involve your remote workforce through virtual office hours and hang-outs.
According to data from a recent Gallup study, 43 percent of Americans are reporting that they spend at least some time working remotely. With so many employees working from home, remote employees, and spread out office locations, many clients are turning toward virtual resources to help spread information and answer questions.
I love this article from Communique about helpful tips for hosting a fun “Virtual Benefits Fair” with tips like “Bring in special guests (company executives, benefits experts, thought leaders) through Webinars, videos and online chats to answer questions, share best practices and provide support to the HR team” and “Add a rewards location/room to encourage participation and ultimately enrollment. Locations and rooms can be timed to appear at certain points during the virtual benefits fair.” Sites like this or other alternatives like VFAIRs are growing in popularity to take the open enrollment experience online.
Tip #3: Find the best communication avenues by exploring platforms and social channels.
In a recent survey by Remoters, Skype and Slack top the list of most frequently used communication tools and apps by remote workers, with about 56 percent of companies using Skype and 45 percent using Slack. Find a way to leverage these high tech systems, or your own internal communication channels to consistently push information to employees. Create focus groups of like-minded people to discuss ideas and concepts of how they approach healthcare with your benefits, like parenting groups or employees who consistently travel. Make sure employees know what channel to go to, and be consistent with when you post information, for example, with the latest updates at 10 am each Monday morning during the month of November.
Not sure what channel to go with? Check out these suggestions from SHRM, which include surveying employees, selecting platforms that make the most sense, and creating social media policies that define appropriate behavior, content, and conduct. Keep in mind, different generations use platforms differently, “While many Millennials live on Snapchat, a Baby Boomer may not even know what that is. Doing a little research as to what might be the most popular for your employee demographic is a great starting point.”
Technology provides a great opportunity; learn what works best for you and your employees. Wishing you all a successful open enrollment season, whatever high-tech path you choose.