By Stacy Kuehler and Meagan Tyson

COVID-19 has made the transition to an online open enrollment experience mandatory – ready or not. It doesn’t have to be difficult, though, if you know your people, your options and have a plan. Here’s how to think about it:

Your people – generations and personas and successful communications

We all recognize that today’s workforces may encompass as many as five generations, from the still-at- it “silent generation” born prior to 1946 to the just-entering Generation Zs who are eager to grow. To really fine-tune your understanding of your employees, though, takes a deeper dive into personas by analyzing employee data by age, role, length of service, and perhaps record of promotions. This is how you learn not only how employees can best absorb information, but how actively engaged they are with benefits. This is how to better drive your offers and outreach.

While there are some generation preferences on outreach and communications tactics, you can’t go wrong by following general guidelines. Most importantly, multi-channel distribution of information – a mix of digital and traditional communications – to reach all employees is key. Videos are preferred by 75% of employees, and your written communiques should be short and simply written. Your tone should be human, personalized and informal. And your people want to access open enrollment and general benefits information easily and, on their terms, as the options below spell out.

Online open enrollment (OE) options are virtually unlimited

Ask yourself: What is the goal? What is the problem this approach should solve? What is the most important outcome we hope to see? What do we want employees to know and feel from it? How is success measured – before and this year? Options include:

  • Video on-demand presentations. Make these visually stimulating presentations fun and engaging by limiting text and having multiple people record voiceovers. On-demand is a convenience for employees and their partners. Analytics – how many views, which sections and when exited – can help you continually improve them.
  • Benefits websites. These popular replacements of the hard copy guides are outside firewalls and non-password protected. They organize and store everything in one place and should be mobile accessible and seamless/branded to the employer.
  • Virtual OE web page. A streamlined version of the benefits website can also host virtual seminars, an OE calendar, push out notifications and other functions.
  • Mobile apps. Employees like to access information on the go, especially when helpful “tap” functions enable calls, emails or links to benefit resources, carrier websites and videos. Interactivity is a must.
  • Animated videos. These are like video on-demand, but with more personality. Use custom avatars to insert well-known employees and leaders into the discussion.
  • Embedded emails. Consumer marketers have taught us these work. But you only have 30 seconds to grab attention. Images help and calls to action are musts. Also investigate tools that let you measure opens and click-throughs.
  • Virtual OE health fairs. Think about why you’re looking at this solution and whether it is the best use of your benefit dollars. Many varieties are available, typically with a mix of live and on-demand/video and perhaps live chat, as well.
  • Call center enrollment. Third-party call center services have evolved. They can be a great way to provide one-on-one assistance when person-to-person isn’t possible, especially as an add-on to your internal resources.
  • Employee outreach/decision support. You also have various tools to engage your workforce throughout the year. Text messaging (opt-in required) delivers notifications and reminders in an instant. Mobile concierge boosts employee interaction with their benefits. And decision support software helps them understand their benefit options.

HUB International’s employee benefit specialists consult with employers of all sizes and in all industries on every aspect of employee benefits program planning and management.