Open Enrollment Is an Opportunity for Education and Engagement
Workspan Daily
August 17, 2023
Key Takeaways

  • Provide benefits clarity. 85% of employees are confused about their benefits, which underscores the importance of clear communication at open enrollment.  
  • Multi-channel communication is key. Companies should drive benefits communications during the open enrollment period through all-company email blasts, virtual and in-person informative meetings, onsite signage, mobile and digital communications. 
  • A few benefits programs are trending upward. Employers plan to introduce or increase their health and well-being programs, mental health programs, stress management, flexibility, and healthcare benefits navigation. 

With a recent survey revealing that 85% of employees are confused about their benefits, the upcoming open enrollment period presents employers with an opportunity to not only educate workers on the variety of options available to them, but also to boost engagement.  

As they can be one of the main drivers of talent attraction and retention, benefits should be designed to increase engagement in the organization, said Richard Polak, senior advisor, global affairs at American Benefits Council.   

“Engagement is key to productivity, and therefore increased revenue/profits,” he said. “[Thus], any opportunity to increase awareness of the benefits program should be utilized.” 

But the work must begin long before the enrollment season is even set in motion.  

Start Early 

It is important that employees already have a full understanding of the available benefits package, said Di Holman, chief people officer at Virgin Pulse, especially if new programs have been added or changes have been made.  

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When engaging employees, consideration should be given to ensure they have ample time to review the benefits, ask questions and attend an open enrollment learning session.  

Clear, concise and regular communications will increase the likelihood that employees will make an informed decision for themselves and their families, Holman said.  

Companies should also consider driving communications through a variety of channels including all-company email blasts, virtual and in-person informative meetings, onsite signage, mobile and digital communications. 

 “Also, don’t let open enrollment be the one time each year when benefits are top of mind for employees,” Holman said.  

“Consistently communicating the available benefits and their value throughout the year will help to build broader awareness and understanding,” she explained. “The ultimate objective is to create a culture of inclusive well-being, increase employee engagement and communication, and realize better business outcomes.” 

Standing Out 

Organizations worldwide are facing a multitude of pressures, from financial headwinds and rising costs to continuing staffing and productivity challenges. All of this has led employers to view benefits as an opportunity to stand out in a tight labor market. 

Virgin Pulse’s “2023 Global Workplace Wellbeing Survey” sheds light on employer priorities for 2024, and found that companies are expanding their commitment to well-being initiatives with new strategies to attract and retain talent.  

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The survey found that a majority of respondents (59%) plan to introduce or increase their health and well-being programs, mental health programs (57%), stress management (49%), flexibility (55%), and healthcare benefits navigation (53%). 

Getting Personal 

With the rise of remote work, planning for open enrollment with a hybrid workforce can present new challenges for organizations.  

Employers need a highly personalized, employee well-being platform that can be accessed from anywhere to help employees navigate the various benefits programs, Holman said, adding that a digital tool can keep employees connected and informed about the many resources available. 

The pandemic demonstrated the importance of supporting physical, mental, social, financial, and family health in the workplace. These benefits should be inclusive of all employees regardless of location. Taking a mobile-first approach will aid in eliminating barriers to access and utilization of offerings.  

Examples of benefits that support an in office, hybrid, or fully remote workforce include telehealth and teletherapy, one-on-one telephonic and onsite health coaching, digital therapeutics, online social group boards and mindfulness management programs.  

“When employers offer a variety of virtual employee benefits, they increase the likelihood that employees will actively participate in the benefits, stay connected with their peers and culture, and become healthier and more engaged,” Holman said. 

Always Time for Action  

Tailoring benefits to meet the unique needs of each member of the workforce is critical, Holman said, especially as employees face potential mental health concerns, financial strain, poor work-life balance, childcare struggles, ongoing fear of COVID-19, and return-to-office anxiety.  

Understanding the needs of a workforce is an essential first step to improving total population health outcomes and employee engagement in the coming year.  

“Sending an anonymous survey is an excellent way to get honest feedback,” Holman said. 

HR can also analyze their own data to define their year-round benefits communications with the workforce, according to Forbes HR Council member Mary Klipfel , chief engagement officer at Businessolver.  

Questions to ask include: 

  • What programs went underutilized last year? Promote those programs with a series of “Did you know?” emails with links to the resource. 
  • Did your plan see high unnecessary ER claims? If so, promote telehealth or other cost-effective care avenues across your platform and through email. 
  • Was there a high rate of FSA forfeiture? Make sure your employees understand what’s covered under that benefit. 

“When armed with data and scalable technology,” Klipfel wrote, “HR can keep their populations engaged throughout the year, no matter how diverse their health needs, finances or lifestyles.” 

Editor’s Note: Additional Content 

For more information and resources related to this article see the pages below, which offer quick access to all WorldatWork content on these topics: 

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