Benefits in the bathroom stall: Outside-the-box tips for getting employees engaged during enrollment

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Tired of not getting employees engaged during open enrollment? You might want to try spreading the word on the sleeve of a coffee cup or on the door of the office restroom.

Those were among the suggestions from Chad Schneider, director of channel sales at software firm Jellyvision, who spoke Tuesday at Employee Benefit Adviser’s Workplace Benefits Mania in Phoenix about the need for “innovative and personalized” benefits education.

“[The benefits industry] is growing, and it’s the most complex it’s ever been,” he said. “So how do you break it down and actually get employees to understand it?”

It’s an area that needs attention: According to Aflac data, 92% of employees aren’t moved to try anything new during open enrollment and simply sign up for the same benefits year after year. And, citing data from his firm, Schneider said 55% of employees say they want help with choosing their health plan.

“We are communicating in a foreign language,” he said. “There’s a better playbook and there’s a better way to do this. Our communication is boring and confusing and we are mostly communicating just once a year.”

The future of benefits education is less about the jargon and boring benefits booklets and more about entertainment, ease and personalization, Schneider says. So where should employers start? Here are six ideas to consider.

Send an email or video from a prominent company leader. An email from the company’s CEO or other important C-suite member telling employees about the importance of benefit offerings and sharing information about upcoming enrollment is hugely important — and a surprisingly uncommon practice, Schneider said. “If the CEO is spending all this money on their company’s benefits — their second largest expenditure besides payroll — why wouldn’t they want to promote it? Send a letter from a CEO, or better yet, send a video,” he said. “You don’t need expensive equipment; you can use your phone. It’s easy to leverage the technology that’s in your pocket.”

Offer incentives or giveaways. Don’t just rely on doughnuts during the morning of open enrollment. Employers should spice things up and offer some incentives or giveaways, Schneider said. Some companies have games or raffles attached to enrolling in certain benefits. “The more you get your employees engaged and excited, the better,” he said.

Send text messages. Time to throw the old benefits booklet away? Perhaps, Schneider suggested. “Nobody reads the booklets; they are a waste of time and energy and money for both [brokers and employers],” he explained. “Employees love text messages — and they can be an easy and quick way to send repeated information on open enrollment information.” Plus, there are a number of text message platforms that can help employers manage the communications, he said, including SlickText, SumoText and EZTexting.

Embrace social media. Most companies have Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn — so why not use them to engage with employees about benefits? “A lot of employees actually go on [their company’s platforms] and look at posts; they share things, like things,” Schneider said. “Think outside the box and post on social media about open enrollment — post hyperlinks and give communication about what’s happening. It’s worked really well with some company clients for us.”

Be a guerilla marketer. Employers should be innovative when it comes to getting the message out. A good place to start? Think about what is important to your company and employees. One employer Schneider worked with said their employees drank a lot of coffee — so they printed out special coffee sleeves that had information about the company’s upcoming open enrollment. “It was inexpensive, it was super smart, and we got unbelievable engagement,” he said.

Think outside the breakroom. “Everyone posts things in the breakroom, but is that where all your employees are going?” Schneider said. Where does every employee go every day? The restroom. “We had a company that put [benefits] information on bathroom stalls — the results were unbelievable; it worked really well,” he said. Another good spot to leave information? The cars of each employee. “It’s all super simple, but smart. These are things that can encourage employees to dig in.”

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