How to reduce open enrollment angst? Personalize

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Just the words open enrollment can evoke dread in employees. And not without reason. Benefits — as no one knows better than the professionals presenting them to employees — are complex, with health insurance being particularly complicated, and can feel overwhelming to many in the workforce.

One of the best ways to improve the experience and increase engagement is to connect directly to employees’ unique situations. It’s a tall order; there’s no one way to resonate with all their needs. There are, however, opportunities to personalize, and it’s well worth the upfront effort.

Employees will pay more attention to OE communications and meetings when they can see how a plan works with their circumstances, and they’ll engage more with their plan throughout the year if they understand how it works. When employees better understand what they’re signing up for, they are better consumers and may even feel better about their investment.

Here are some ways to personalize your annual enrollment program, both for your organization as a whole and your employees individually.

Take an omnichannel approach

One step toward personalization is to address the communication channel preferences of your organization. Most employees have a favored way to receive information, whether it be via email, chat or print. For example, you may be tempted to move all OE information online, but it is important to have information available in print for those who prefer it or are not at a desk regularly checking email or chat.

Some employees want concise and actionable information. Use the digital communication tools at your disposal to create an open enrollment chat or channel to share the latest information. Send instant message reminders at the beginning and end of the enrollment period.

Be careful, however, not to flood employees with information. In my experience, they largely prefer to know simply what has changed and what they need to do.

To ensure everyone can find the information they need, consider a dedicated benefits page on your company intranet with bullet-point tips on the main page and more detailed information deeper within the site. That way, you can satisfy employees’ need for quick information while providing more detail for those who want it.

Go deeper than group personalization

Accounting for channel preference is a good first step, but you’ll get the best engagement if you personalize to the individual by helping employees understand how health plan changes will affect them.

First, make it mandatory for employees to review their plan and select to renew, rather than letting it roll over. Fifty-eight percent of workers surveyed in a Prudential study said that if they were auto-enrolled in an insurance policy, they would likely keep it rather than opt out. Challenge employees to think about what they are signing up for.

Second, offer example personas or scenarios that employees can identify with. Employees don’t want to hear the vague ways any given plan can be applied; they want to know what plan is best for their situation. While you can’t answer that question for each individual, you can create communications with examples representative of your employee population. Personas could include a 34-year-old female who is pregnant, a 50-year-old father with diabetes and two kids in college, and someone early in their career without a family to support. Sharing relatable examples can make the process more tangible. I recommend having at least three personas available, but the most effective number will depend on your employee base.

Provide resources to aid decision-making

No matter how much information you provide, many employees struggle with the decision of which plan is best for them. There are several resources you can offer for support. You can share digital tools that allow employees to enter their personal information, such as prescriptions and expected number of doctors’ visits, and generate a personalized estimate of how much they will pay and which plan will be the most cost-effective for them.

Encourage employees to communicate with prospective plans’ customer service departments to ask specific questions. Some plans, such as our firm’s Bind On-Demand Health Insurance, will let employees see all costs before enrolling by searching via the plan website. Having employees research ahead of time allows them to ask whether a specific provider or prescription is covered and how much it would cost on that plan. If they get the information up front, they can feel more confident they have made the right decision for their situation.

Give your employees what they need

Rather than dragging employees through a process they would rather skip, take steps to empower them to make decisions that will serve them and their families throughout the year. Open enrollment doesn’t have to be a frustrating time; it can be your employees’ opportunity to take charge of their health.

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