August 29, 2022

Open Enrollment Success Relies on Effective Communications

By Lin Grensing-Pophal

The need for effective open enrollment communications has never been more critical—or more complicated, given the rise of hybrid mixes of remote and onsite work arrangements. This requires a renewed focus on developing communications that meet employees' needs wherever they are and whenever they need to connect.

Economic uncertainty is another complication employees are facing. With inflation on the rise and talk of an upcoming recession, "you need to educate your employees so they can make the best choices for this year," said Jennifer Benz, senior vice president and communications leader at Segal Benz, a San Francisco-based employee benefits consulting firm.

Two-way communication is a must-have, said Karen Sturdivant, benefits director with LandrumHR, an HR services firm in Pensacola, Fla. "Ensure that employees have full information on each plan and that they have an avenue to ask questions to help them make educated decisions," she recommended.

Virtual Communications Are Here to Stay

Communication during the pandemic focused heavily on digital channels. That's not likely to stop, experts say, even as more employees are returning to onsite work.

"While it is a challenge to replicate the personal nature of an in-person meeting, virtual meetings offer a logistical benefit in that they provide time for all parties to do more," Sturdivant said. Virtual communications can provide employees with the information they need, when and where they need it, she added. That can help boost the odds that employees better understand, and are better prepared to take advantage of, the value of their benefits offerings.

"Time formerly spent traveling from one meeting to another is now used for additional communication," Sturdivant said. "We have the ability to reach out to more clients, employees and vendors, and are able to have more educational and consultative meetings."

Casey Hauch, managing director of communication and change management with consultancy WTW in Boston, agrees. And, she said, the virtual environment can emulate the traditional benefits fair. "You can go to different booths and vendors. You can chat with the vendors." In addition, she noted, employers can add in elements of gamification that offer some fun and competition.

High-Tech, High-Touch Approach

Matthew Owenby, chief HR officer at supplemental health insurer Aflac in Columbus, Ga., said open enrollment this year will operate in a predominantly virtual manner at the firm.

Active and frequent communications to leaders and employees, along with virtual benefits expos, will make up the firm's approach, he said.

But, he added, "even with a virtual approach to messaging and education, we leverage an extremely high touch with our employees." For instance, Owenby noted, "HR team members actively follow up to ensure that all of our employees are aware of the timeline and understand the array of our offerings."

Combining a high-tech, high-touch approach ensures all employees are reached and an array of communication preferences are met, communications experts agree.

Plesase visit the SHRM website to read the original article.