The success of open enrollment relies on effective communications

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

Economic uncertainty is another complication that employees face. With inflation on the rise and rumors of a coming recession, “you need to educate your employees so they can make the best choices for this year,” said Jennifer Benz, senior vice president and chief communications officer. at Segal Benz, a company based in San Francisco. benefits consulting firm.

Two-way communication is a must, said Karen Sturdivant, director of benefits at LandrumHR, an HR services company in Pensacola, Florida. “Make sure employees have complete information about each plan and have a way to ask questions to make informed decisions,” she recommended.

Virtual communications are here to stay

Communication during the pandemic has focused heavily on digital channels. It’s unlikely to stop, experts say, even as more employees return to work on site.

“While it’s difficult to replicate the personal nature of an in-person meeting, virtual meetings offer a logistical advantage in that they allow time for all parties to get more done,” Sturdivant said. Virtual communications can provide employees with the information they need, when and where they need it, she added. This can help increase the chances that employees better understand and are better prepared to realize the value of their benefits.

“Time once spent traveling from meeting to meeting is now being used for additional communications,” Sturdivant said. “We have the ability to reach more customers, employees and suppliers, and we are able to have more educational and consultative meetings.”

Casey Hauch, managing director, communications and change management with consulting firm WTW in Boston, agrees. And, she said, the virtual environment can mimic the traditional profit fair. “You can go to different stalls and vendors. You can chat with the vendors.” Additionally, she noted, employers can add gamification elements that provide fun and competition.

High Tech, High Touch

Matthew Owenby, director of human resources at supplemental health insurer Aflac in Columbus, Georgia, said open enrollment this year will operate primarily virtually within the company.

“Active and frequent communications with leaders and employees, virtual exhibits on team benefits as well as our vendors will be our approach,” he said.

But, he added, “even with a virtual approach to messaging and education, we benefit from extremely high contact with our employees.” For example, noted Owenby, “members of the HR team actively follow up to ensure that all of our employees are aware of the schedule and understand the range of our offerings.”

The combination of a high-tech and high-touch approach ensures that all employees are reached and a range of communication preferences are met, agree communication experts.


Brokers are adapting to the hybrid workforce

The rise of hybrid onsite/offsite work schedules has “driven the benefits administration industry to innovate to better support remote elections and general remote workforce support” said David Reid, CEO and co-founder of Ease, a benefits enrollment company. San Francisco-based software company.

As companies embrace flexible working policies, the vast majority of employers (94%) believe consultation, innovation and ongoing management of their broker is needed year-round, not just during open enrollment, according to an Ease survey conducted in June and July among more than 1,750 respondents across the United States, including employers, insurance companies and brokers selling group health plans.

With the ability to provide 24/7 customer service to the remote workforce, “last year, 38% of agencies were able to offer more support in the form of ‘onboarding new online hires, remote elections and compliance support’, as noted in Ease’s
2022 Open Enrollment Readiness Report.

Employers said the top three areas they want insurance brokers to support are:


  • Better cost estimating tools for employees (32% of employer respondents).

  • Personalized employee engagement materials (30 percent).

  • Easy enrollment technology (22 percent).

The findings “highlight the importance of customer service in an increasingly digital world,” Reid said.


Lin Grensing-Pophal, SHRM-SCP, is a Wisconsin-based business journalist with HR consulting experience.

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