By John Bonoff
In 2018, most companies were still in the process of putting together a digital transformation strategy. Open Enrollment had become an online event for a large percentage of organizations, but many still relied on paper brochures and breakroom posters, with just under 50% of companies still planning their transformation, and over 20% with no plan at all. Now, amidst a pandemic and a mass movement to remote work, it’s safe to say that “planning for a digital transformation” is a thing of the past. Along with most other initiatives, Open Enrollment has been forced into a digital evolution faster than most companies thought possible. More than just an inflection point in a trend, this year’s enrollment season marks the beginning of a new era, and demands a new approach. So what have we learned so far, in the most digital Open Enrollment ever, and how can we improve the process going forward? Use the following strategies as a starting point.
Make sure your employees are informed
In the absence of in-person benefit fairs and handouts, the information about new or updated programs needs to be explicitly clear while still being comprehensive. As nearly half of employees in the U.S. spend 30 minutes or less reviewing their benefits, this process should be as straightforward as possible. There may be information about benefits that only vendors are equipped to handle, which might necessitate a virtual Q&A session or document directly from them. Do your best to provide a bank of information that employees can navigate to and through, based on their personal needs. If your organization traditionally hosts a vendor benefits fair, consider a virtual fair instead. Using a digital campaign to send out ad-hoc messaging and keep employees informed can be the most effective way of driving engagement during a digital Open Enrollment as well as utilizing an online platform that is designed to facilitate remote education and enrollment. Finally, as long as we are facing a global pandemic, messaging around employees’ health and well-being should also be a priority. Open Enrollment is an opportunity to reinforce the ways that benefits support employees inside and outside of work.
Consider updating your programs
A common theme of this year’s enrollment season has been the updates and optimization of company programs, specifically around employee well-being. Our personal and professional lives have been blended together like never before, and it makes sense that employee benefits reflect this. Child care, mental health resources, better rates on life insurance, and additional perks and programs to support a healthier lifestyle are all proven ways to better support employees in a time when moving around is more difficult, and responsibilities can tend to stack up quickly. It’s also possible that COVID-19 has rendered some programs obsolete, such as perks for local eateries or even gym memberships. Consider polling employees or leadership on which program updates make sense for your organization.
Choose your communication channels wisely
In our noisy world of remote work, communication overload should be a big concern, especially for larger organizations. Making sure an important message has been sent is one thing—making sure it’s seen or heard by all intended recipients is a much taller order. Content is no longer king, considering the volume of digital messages companies are now forced to send out. This is what makes the strategic use of communication channels so crucial. Whether it’s email, chat, or virtual meeting, each message should have a purpose that will be maximized by the given channel. For example, employees may not pay as much attention to an email as they will to an announcement in a company-wide meeting, but relying too heavily on this format may cause employees to disengage. To effectively communicate with a remote workforce, develop a sense of the optimal volume and cadence of messaging, as well as which communication channels employees respond to best.
Embrace your digital side
Through our year of whirlwind changes, the challenge that Open Enrollment presents to organizations and their internal teams remains largely the same: How can we maximize engagement and education around company programs, and help employees make the best benefits decisions? Although we’ve seen new obstacles appear and traditional practices suddenly become unfeasible in a world of remote work, success in this purely digital environment is entirely within reach. By clearly framing what employees need to know, updating and personalizing company offerings, and reaching out through the proper communication channels, we can connect with employees during Open Enrollment, at a time when connection is harder to come by.