Reflect, Reconnect, and Elect | Blog | MMA

Reflect, Reconnect, and Elect

Your Communications Guide to a Successful Post-Pandemic Open Enrollment

August 4, 2021

The past 16 months have created significant change and instability. With benefits open enrollment around the corner for many employers, now is an ideal time to reestablish a strong foundation in supporting your employees in this post-pandemic era. Through a three-pronged approach to craft your open enrollment communications strategy, you can reflect on any changes within your organization, reconnect with your employees, and help them elect their benefits for the new plan year.

Reflect: Where have we been and where are we going?

It’s time to press pause and reflect on your organization’s new identity as a result of the pandemic. With insights from this exercise, you can focus on how to approach this new year, both from a plan design and communications perspective. The following are a list of questions that may influence your open enrollment strategy:

  • How did this past year impact your communication style with employees? In an effort to show compassion and support to employees through the changing times, leaders have modified their tone, style and messaging. Consider if you need to adjust your strategy to take a more compassionate approach with your open enrollment communications, especially if significant plan changes are forthcoming.
  • Are your employees engaging with company communications differently as a result of the pandemic? Many organizations made considerable changes such as transitioning to 100% remote work, or implementing a hybrid approach. This can influence your decision to rely on printed benefit guides versus electronic communications, or in-person open enrollment meetings versus solely virtual presentations.
  • Are there any new benefits or perks worth considering? According to the National Business Group of Health, 51% of employers implemented more virtual care solutions to improve employee engagement and offer improved member convenience. If there is an opportunity to complement your program with an additional offering, consider what would provide the most value. Derive this knowledge from resources such as claims trends and employee feedback. For example, if you’ve seen a rise in mental health claims, consider enhancing your mental wellness benefits.

Reconnect: Show compassion and meet employees where they are.

It is very likely that 2020 took an emotional toll on your employees, whether due to personal loss, the stress of the pandemic, protests for social justice, or otherwise. As a result of these challenges, employees may be looking to their employers for more support on a personal level. In addition to well-rounded benefits, employers need to appease employees through compassionate messaging and comprehensive communications. The following suggestions are ways you can forge a true connection with your workforce so they can see the value in your benefits program and remain committed to your organization.

  • Personalize your messaging: Your employees aren’t just workers; they’re individuals with unique needs. Incorporate messaging to demonstrate how your benefits program takes a holistic, well-rounded approach to employee health and well-being. Highlight the diversity within your plan offerings and how they’re meant to support employees both in and out of the workplace. From core medical benefits to childcare support, paint a picture of how your benefits support them on all fronts.
  • Be sensitive toward benefit changes: Changes to your plans or carriers can intimidate employees, especially if they will need to pay higher premiums or change their primary care provider. However, if you thoughtfully communicate any benefits changes, you can reassure employees and empower them as they enter open enrollment. Make an effort to communicate early and often so they have time to discuss important decisions with family members, explain the reason and value behind the changes, and provide ongoing support and information to all employees.
  • Celebrate expanded offerings: Even before the pandemic, employee burnout and mental health claims were considerable workplace concerns. Unfortunately, the past year heightened these matters as evidenced by the fact that 70% of Americans experienced an increase in stress. On a positive note, many business leaders expanded their health benefits to provide more mental health support. This is just one of the many areas top of mind for employers. Whether your organization maximized offerings on the mental health front, honed in on financial wellness, or implemented perks to support work-life balance, demonstrate their value through real world examples and down-to-earth messaging.
  • Get creative with diverse communication outlets: Leverage creative engagement tools that are outside the box to excite employees and increase access to education and support.
    • Educational videos: Did you know that employees are 75% more likely to watch a video than read text? Incorporate educational benefits videos into in-person and prerecorded meetings.
    • Meeting polls: Virtual meeting fatigue is real! Break up the monotony of the one-way presentation style through meeting polls. Many virtual meeting platforms offer the ability to incorporate poll questions and get employees engaged.
    • Meeting raffles: Who doesn’t love a fun raffle? Employees are more likely to attend meetings and stay engaged if there is a prize on the line.
    • QR codes: As opposed to traditional printed materials or hyperlinks to online resources, QR codes conveniently connect employees to important online documents, simply by using their smartphone to snap a photo of the code.

Elect: Guide your team through the election process.

Open Enrollment shouldn’t be a dreaded time, but as many as 45% of workers say they are apprehensive about the open enrollment process. Now that you have reflected on your communication approach and taken steps to reconnect with your employees, now it is time to be their guide through the benefits election process. Consider these tools as a primary means for support:  

  • Consider the value of a decision support tool: With almost half of employees uneasy about open enrollment, decision support tools can be a valuable resource to help them evaluate costs, better understand plan options, and receive personalized recommendations based on their unique needs. These tools can make all the difference in guiding your employees through the election process.
  • Dedicate a hub for your benefits communications: It is ideal to keep all information related to your benefits and employee resources in an organized, accessible location. Whether you store these items on your intranet, benefits administration system, or a mobile app, it will make the election process easier for employees in case they would like to learn about their benefits options.
  • Emphasize resources and support: Highlight your go-to resource for support prior, during, and post- open enrollment. That way, they know who they can lean on throughout the entire process. If you do not have a dedicated resource, consider a member support service to address employee questions regarding their benefits and the election process. Furthermore, this type of service can be available year-around for questions regarding qualifying life events, claims management, services covered under a plan, and more.

At MMA, we take a personalized approach to benefits communications for each one of our clients. If your company would like to partner on your open enrollment strategy or to learn about MMA’s benefits communications, click here and a member of our team will be in touch.