Creating a communication plan for Open Enrollment is a daunting task. It can seem impossible to cram all the information employees need into just a few short weeks. In this post, we’ll review the communication strategy we use to help our customers have a successful Open Enrollment. Though every company is different, we’ve developed this template while working with hundreds of organizations across the country.
Think of your plan in 3 phases:
- Pre-Open Enrollment: 1 to 2 months before the start of OE. Use this time to prepare employees so that you don’t have to take on the impossible task of cramming everything employees need to know into just a few weeks of communications.
- During Open Enrollment: Your OE period, usually 2 - 4 weeks. During this time, only focus on what employees need to know to enroll in benefits. Any other information, like wellness and healthcare consumerism, needs to be put on hold until after Open Enrollment. There’s just no way for employees to absorb that much information at once.
- Post-Open Enrollment: 2 - 4 weeks following Open Enrollment. This is the time to survey employees for feedback, drive home the value of their benefits, and reinforce key information that will help them have a successful plan year.
Below are our recommendations on what topics to communicate during these three phases. As you think about your communication plan, treat it as a checklist. Ask yourself, “have we covered this?” If not, add it to your plan.
Timeline: 1 - 2 months before Open Enrollment
Use this time to prepare employees for Open Enrollment. Sending information to employees in advance of OE’s official start makes people better-equipped to make decisions when the big deadlines actually roll around. That means less confusion and fewer questions. It also frees up your content plan to only focus on communicating essential information during the enrollment period. Here are the 5 topics we suggest communicating during Pre-Open Enrollment:
- Announce that Open Enrollment is coming - Sample Content
- Preview upcoming plan changes so that employees start to comprehend what it means for them - Sample Content
- Remind employees who is eligible to enroll in benefits - Sample Content
- Announce any webinars and on-site benefit meetings so they’re better attended - Sample Content
- Educate employees on basic insurance terms so they can better understand the plan designs you’re presenting them - Sample Content
During Open Enrollment
Timeline: OE period, typically 2 - 4 weeks
Only focus on what employees need to know to enroll in benefits. Any other information like wellness should be put on hold until after Open Enrollment, or it should have been integrated into your Pre-Open Enrollment period. We recommend communicating these 8 topics:
- Announce that Open Enrollment has started, and state the enrollment deadline - Sample Content
- Provide a basic checklist of actions employees need to take - Sample Content
- Instruct employees how to enroll - don’t be scared to be detailed, and don’t skip steps in the name of brevity - Sample Content
- Explain what will happen if they don’t enroll - Sample Content
- Inform them who to contact with questions - Sample Content
- If one employee has a question, there’s a good chance others do too - listen for consistent questions, and communicate the answers to all employees - Sample Content
- Highlight any plan changes - Sample Content
- Remind employees to attend webinars and on-site benefit meetings - reminders are a research-backed strategy to drive behavior - Sample Content
- Remind employees of the enrollment deadline multiple times, and at least 2 days before the enrollment window closes - Sample Content
Timeline: 2 - 4 weeks following Open Enrollment
For many HR teams, the Open Enrollment hangover usually starts now, but that doesn’t mean the communications should stop. There is still important information to cover that will ensure a smooth transition to the new plan year. We recommend covering these 4 topics:
- Collect employee feedback on Open Enrollment - Sample Content
- Tell employees when they can expect to receive new ID cards - Sample Content
- Remind employees when new benefit plans begin and ask them to verify that their premium deductions are accurate on their pay stubs - Sample Content
- If there were major changes to any benefits, educate employees on how to use these new plan features - Sample Content
The Rest of the Year
After Post-Open Enrollment, we recommend spending the rest of the year continuing to educate employees on how to use their benefits, the value of what they have, and driving engagement in wellness. A simple way to do this is by adding benefit spotlights and healthcare consumerism tips to your HR communications throughout the year.
We hope this strategy helps you feel more prepared to take on Open Enrollment communications. We wish you all the best this OE season!