Ask a Communicator: Tips for HR to Increase Open Enrollment
Dear SocialChorus: Open enrollment in our company always has low turnout. How can our HR team reach more employees?
HR is often responsible for communications related to employee training, benefits and wages, and company news. As fall comes around and you’re getting ready to kick off open enrollment, it can be challenging to get employees to sign up.
Why don’t employees sign up during open enrollment periods? Many employees find it overwhelming and confusing to research health and benefits plans. At least one study has found that nearly 50% of employees find the open enrollment process to be “always stressful.”
In other words, many employees just aren’t as prepared as you might think to dive into engaging with open enrollment. That means they need extra support, explanation, and information from HR.
The right approach to communication can help you improve open enrollment. SocialChorus has worked with CIOX Health to improve communications; thanks to these efforts, the company nearly doubled the number of employees year-over-year who signed up and enrolled.
To increase turnout, your first step is to ensure your workforce is receiving communication from HR. (After all, if your workforce doesn’t know what you’re offering, what incentive do they have to sign up?)
Missed messages and poor communication is a bigger problem than you might think at many companies. As it turns out, the Society of Human Resource Management found that small companies with 100 employees lose $420,000 every year due to poor communication within the company. By comparison, companies with 100,000 employees lose $62.4 million annually. Good internal communication increases organizational agility by decreasing costs and increasing connectedness.
If you improve internal communications, HR can reach more employees and increase open enrollment turnout. Here are some ways to craft a winning strategy that will help you vastly improve employee engagement.
#1 Meet employees on the devices and channels they prefer.
Today’s workforce is often fragmented, working across different time zones and during different hours of the day and night. Some workers don’t routinely use a desktop computer for work-related tasks. Instead, they use mobile devices.
HR teams can ask a few key questions to dig deeper into the issue of how workers prefer to receive communications.
- What group of employees are the hardest to reach?
- How did previous open enrollment campaigns succeed? What didn’t work?
- Which communication channels are most effective at reaching your workers?
- Are remote or deskless employees disengaged from your messaging?
If you cater to employee communications preferences, you’ll be far more likely to spark engagement. For these reasons, standalone internal communications tools won’t work as effectively to get your message to workers as integrated workforce communications platforms.
Given the way people use technology today, emails and intranet alone might not reach and engage your workforce. Investing in a system that integrates all your communications channels allows you to reach employees on their preferred device and channel. It can also help you engage hard to reach workers like remote or frontline staff. This will make it more likely that your workforce knows when open enrollment begins, how to start the process, and how to make the best decisions based on their needs.
#2 Gather and leverage data about employees’ communications preferences to better understand what kinds of initiatives will succeed.
Another great benefit of using a workforce communications platform is it allows you to gather key data about your employees. You can then use that data to craft winning communications strategies.
Recently, a multinational company with 52,000 employees was planning for open enrollment. With such a large organization, a majority of their employees were remote and deskless. This made communicating open enrollment incredibly time-consuming and difficult.
The organization used every means possible to reach employees—email, intranet, flyers in break rooms, and more. However, the HR and communications teams had no way to monitor whether employees actually received the information. As a result, many workers missed open enrollment deadlines and the opportunity to make benefits changes.
Determined not to repeat that outcome, the company used SocialChorus the following year to publish and distribute open enrollment information. They were able to target employees with benefits information tailored to their needs, including automated reminders. The company saw a 110% gain in open enrollment activity from the previous year, and the SocialChorus platform saved the HR team countless hours.
Most HR professionals aren’t using data-based insights to improve their strategies. We discovered that a staggering 70% reported that leadership didn’t even ask for metrics from HR. Their employee communications data was given very little attention—and, in some cases, ignored completely.
Understanding and analyzing your workforce metrics can make a difference. Study the demographic composition of your employees to know who you are communicating with. Certain demographics may prefer different methods of communication. It is important that you are aware of your workforce and the unique needs they have.
A multichannel strategy backed by data is the most effective at targeting a variety of different workforce segments. In-office employees might prefer emails, intranet, and posted bulletins, while deskless workers might like push notifications on a company app. Some employees might be visual learners and prefer to receive new information in a video format, while others may rely on weekly newsletters. This is why it is important to study your workforce to discover how they like to consume information in order for you to tailor your strategy to increase engagement.
#3 Craft informative but concise messaging about benefits and offerings.
If employees have to sift through long, detailed descriptions of every benefit you offer, they may become overwhelmed and confused and disengage from the process entirely. Keep communications simple and clear so you can help workers understand their new plans without taking up too much of their time or further confusing them.
Consider creating a campaign that sends out a series of short, relevant messages. Employees are more likely to click on an email that is engaging and concise enough that they can read through it quickly. This can get your workforce hooked on your messaging before you present them with the complete, detailed plan information.
After you have sent out a series of engaging messages, then you can educate your workforce about the coverage and benefits. Remember to include information that your employees really care about, such as flexible spending accounts for unplanned hospital stays and other unknown emergency needs. If workers trust in your messaging, and that you will provide them with relevant and important information, they are more likely to keep reading and actually enroll.
#4 Personalize and target your communications.
Everyone has unique preferences and needs. Which means they don’t want to read a lot of information that doesn’t apply to them.
For example, workforce communications campaigns allow you to send HR communications to distinct employee groups. The moment an employee has signed up or taken a specific action, you can cease sending that person requests and reminders. Meanwhile, employees who haven’t signed up will continue to get messages until they take the right actions.
With this automated and streamlined approach, employees will only receive relevant information at the right time and place. Remember that everyone’s inbox is overloaded; the average employee receives about 120 emails daily! By targeting and personalizing your communications, you can ensure employees are more likely to actually open your emails and read them rather than deleting them.
Also, as workforces become more spread out and include members of multiple generations, HR will have to create communications strategies that reach every employee. Not every worker sits at a desk or goes into the office. The rise of remote or frontline work puts pressure on HR to diversify its messaging to engage every workforce segment.
Personalizing communications can ensure that your employees continue to engage with your messaging. Segmenting and targeting different employee groups based on their preferences will increase turnout. A single publishing platform can simplify this process and make it easier to send distinct segments relevant and timely information.
#5 Survey your employees and measure your results.
Employees are your greatest asset, so make sure to use them! The best way to find out if your new comms strategy works is to survey your workforce and collect feedback. Pulse surveys are a great method to quickly and easily discover how your employees feel.
Getting a holistic account of both quantitative and qualitative responses will allow you to have a complete analysis of your performance.
Quantitative metrics you should look at include:
- How many people signed up
- Through which channel and on what type of device did they signed up
- What step in the campaign had the largest amount of conversions
Qualitative questions to ask your workforce include:
- “What information would you like to see included in the future?”
- “How could HR improve enrollment communications?”
- “What caused you to enroll?”
Recap: High enrollment turnout and effective communication are linked
HR can get more employees to sign up during open enrollment periods if they take the right steps to engage workers and keep them fully informed about the process of enrollment. Here are some ways to craft a successful communications strategy to boost participation in open enrollment:
- Meet employees on the devices and channels they prefer.
- Gather and leverage data about your employees to better understand what kinds of communications initiatives will succeed.
- Craft informative but concise messaging about benefits and offerings.
- Personalize and target your communications.
- Survey your employees and measure your results.
Learn more with our HR Comms guide, 4 Steps to Improving Employee Engagement.