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Welcome to episode 16 of the Rethink HR podcast, brought to you by bettHR.

This is part four of our series about open enrollment (OE)/annual enrollment (AE), focused on how to make your OE a more inclusive experience for all of your employees—and start moving the needle to create the diverse, equitable, and inclusive culture your employees need.

First, evaluate your benefits and total rewards offerings for inclusivity. Are your benefit offerings equitable for all employees including those who are differently-abled, not cisgender, consistent across genders, ages, and so on. Based on your review, your company has to make a decision. Are you going to create an environment that has equitable benefit offerings for ALL employees, or not? Either way, be transparent about the path forward, the timeline, and your decision rationale.

Second, have you put in place unnecessary barriers for communication access? This could be things like having an SSO, information being shared via email when not all employees have an easily accessible email box, and so on. Can employees at all levels in your organization easily access information, regardless of their title and income level? And when they get there, is the information presented in a way that’s easy for all to digest and implement?

Finally, are you using truly diverse language, images, and perspectives in the collateral you are creating? Instead of approaching the graphics as a last-minute thought or using “token placements,” how are you incorporating different perspectives and imagery, throughout your communication as part of your plan?

Listen in, to learn more!

In This Episode

  • This is the fourth podcast in a series all about open enrollment—and how to start changing your culture to be more inclusive and incorporate Anti-Racism messaging, through open enrollment.
  • Three specific tactics that you can do right now, to start making a change.


#OpenEnrollment is the perfect time to start creating the Anti-Racism #culture your employees need right now. #hr #benefits #shrm Click To Tweet

Speaker 1 (00:00): The words we use the images we use need to be inclusive of all the employees that work at our company. And those we wish to attract, to recruit into our company. Do your communications provide a diverse set of circumstances of graphics, of scenarios so that each employee can see themselves in your communication. I'm Melissa Anzman HR practitioner turned CEO of a thriving employee experience company, but it wasn't all that long ago that I worked as an HR business partner responsible for increasing employee engagement at companies nationwide. And I struggled to move the needle even after trying everything under the sun, fast forward, past many fail tactics and lessons learned. And you'll see how I've been able to crack the code and replicated at companies of all sizes for creating true engagement and doing HR work that matters work that changes the lives of leaders, HR professionals, and employees.

Speaker 1 (01:03): By focusing on the employee experience, I created the rethink HR podcast to give you actionable step by step strategies to help you make an impact. If you're an HR leader or one on the rise, who's looking to stop spinning your wheels, doing the same tired activities that aren't driving results, or you want to have a career. You love your in the right place let's get started. So we're still going to talk about open enrollment or annual enrollment, whichever one you choose in today's special series, but we're going to combine a few of the hot topics that are going on around us all in one to help you plan a better OE/AE for this year and take into account the things that are happening. We can't just put our head in the sand and ignore that there is a big pandemic going on, that there is social injustice uprising happening, and that we've just had really hard hit economy numbers.

Speaker 1 (02:08): So all those things taken into account. We have to approach, or I should say, we have the opportunity to approach AE a little differently this year. And you may be wondering like, how is it going to be different? Why does it need to be different? We are already spending so much of our time helping our employees transition to remote or transition back into office and understanding what that looks like scrambling around our policies for all those things in related items, laying off people perhaps, and really struggling to figure out how to make everything right. And it's a lot. And it's not something that HR people are frankly prepared to do or train for the same people who got us in this spot in HR are not necessarily equipped right now to bring us to the next iteration. So instead of worrying about these big sweeping changes in how we are going to lead them and make them happen, let's start with what we can control.

Speaker 1 (03:14): Let's start with the things that we can influence. We can change. We can make a difference and a E and communications around that is exactly where you should start, because it's a big opportunity. It's the thing. Your company spends a significant amount of money on each year for their employees. And it's an opportunity for you to share with your employees, just how much they mean to you and how important it is for you to start changing and influencing the culture that you're trying to become versus the culture that is frankly broken or fractured right now. So today I'm going to walk through a few ways that you can do that with your own plans. And then if we have time we'll tackle communications. So the first thing I really want you to look at when it comes to your open enrollment strategy is we have to create communications and strategy benefits, total rewards that help our entire employee population.

Speaker 1 (04:24): I think we're learning hopefully very quickly that we haven't been as diverse or equitable or inclusive as we thought we were being, or hopefully this isn't the case, but intentionally not being that way. So in order to get us there, let's focus on the benefits themselves. So first are your benefits and your benefit offerings truly inclusive. Now I know it's late in the game and you may not be able to influence the actual benefit mix, so to speak of what you offer and ensuring that it's equitable, but you sure as heck need to have a plan to talk about them if they are or not. So let me give you some examples here of things specifically for you to look at. So you know, where you need to help and work and communicate around. One of the things I see quite often in our clients, employers, a benefit mix I should say is now it's changing.

Speaker 1 (05:31): But a couple years ago, a lot of companies did not cover transgender surgery. They saw it as cosmetic or optional and not something that was covered by their insurance plans. Now, obviously this is a company decision and you can make that decision. However, you'd like, but from an inclusivity perspective, this is not being inclusive. This is not being honoring to those who need the surgery. And so if your benefits believe or state that that surgery is still elective, you really want to consider the non-inclusive factor of that. There's a whole bunch of other examples that you can look at from a exclusion perspective when it comes to medical benefits, but that's one that's really top of mind. And really top of the list of what is usually seen as a glaring example of this is an inclusive company, or it's not another thing I want you to look at are your policies around leave for parents.

Speaker 1 (06:45): So whether this is a maternity leave or paternity leave, or if your leave is different for adoption or birthing, I want you to look at that because that's not inclusive, either same sex couples. Are they treated the same for leave? Is it different? How does that work? Remember our goal here is to be inclusive of all of our employees. And this is a policy. This isn't reliant necessarily upon your benefit administrator and external benefits providers, to be able to accept it and plans and all the things. This is something that you can control and make an update on. So look at those two things to start with. There's obviously a ton of things to look at when it comes to being inclusive and diverse around your benefit offerings, but start with those two and then dive deeper. Now, if you are not currently inclusive, which a majority of your companies are not going to be.

Speaker 1 (07:50): And it's kind of tough to say that because I don't think the intention was that I'm going to stay positive in that regard, in that it wasn't a malicious situation, it was money saving or not in the budget per se or not a decision or no one forced it, or no one listened to the employees who were asking about that. But the reality is your benefits are likely skewed in some way, particularly in these two parts. So you need to create a plan as to if your benefits and offerings are not inclusive. What are you going to do about it? What is the company's plan to fix that? Is there a plan? Have you taken a look at it? Are you going to dive deep into it and try to make a change? Now the answer may be no. And as upsetting as that is to some of us that could very well be the reality at your company.

Speaker 1 (08:52): I can think of three companies off the top of my head where their answer is, no, we are not going to change our transgender benefits. We are not going to make maternity paternity leave equal. Like this is just how we are. And so that may be how your company is too. Their key here is now it's time to be transparent about it, where ever your company has landed in the decision on this issue, on the diverse, inclusive, and equitable issue of benefits. You need to be transparent about it. If you are going to make a change, but you're not able to make a change right now, you need to help your employees understand why and share your roadmap, apologize that they are not going to be able to get it this year, but you're looking into it. And here's the steps you're going to take for next year or midyear or what have you.

Speaker 1 (09:52): And you need to negotiate like whatever the roadmap is, be transparent about it and share it with your employees. Now, if the answer is no, we're not going to make a change. You need to share that too. You need to understand and help your employees understand particularly why you've decided to do that. What was your thinking? And let me be super clear. These types of decisions are also going to help your employees understand your company's values and how they make decisions. And that's really important. And you may lose some great key talent over it, but you need to be honest about it in order to move forward. Employees need to understand if you are truly a diverse equity and inclusive company, or if you're not. And obviously we all, we want to all work at places that are, and your company probably wants to be, but there are a lot of companies that make the decision intentionally not to be.

Speaker 1 (10:56): And so you need to be transparent about that so that everybody can move forward with the right expectations. And you can have that experience now down so that your employees understand the expectation and engagement levels going forward. The next thing to really look at, to create a equitable benefits experience for annual enrollment is understanding if you are placing unnecessary barriers for your employees to access information. This is something I see every single day, and it is really easy to fix. This is a lot easier to fix. Then renegotiating your benefit programs and contracts with your carriers. This is something you can fix right now in a few days. Like truly it is crazy that it is still an issue, but it is accessibility to information is not something that should still happen for your benefit program. Now you may be saying, but we provide all the information.

Speaker 1 (12:05): What are you talking about, Melissa? Of course everybody can access it. And the truth is that's not true because you have different level of employees with different accessibilities do your line workers, the people who come in everyday clock in everyday, maybe they work on a manufacturing line. They likely don't have an employer, email or corporate email address. They don't have a company phone number or Blackberry. Oh, I just dated myself with the Blackberry, but you get what I'm saying. Does that employee population have this same quick accessibility to benefit information as your executive suite? The answer is likely no, because you're emailing out information. They're not getting the email or they have to use a kiosk to sign in and get access, which they don't necessarily have equal access to. So on and so forth. If you're providing any type of barrier to information access, you are not being inclusive and you need to stop that right now, please, everybody at your organization should be able to access and understand information in the way that they want and the way they process. So this means that, you know, you have to have equal access to things like learning about information. You can't have an SSO, you can't have a barrier. You can't have to be logged into a company machine. You can't have your information sent only via email. If no one checks it like so on and so forth, or be reliant on their manager to pass information along, which we know isn't consistent. The point here is,

Speaker 1 (13:50): Access is inclusion. So the easiest way to do this, you know, this is coming is a microsite. A microsite for your benefits is where you can provide access 24 seven, three 65 on any device, whether they're sitting at their office desk or they're sitting at home on their cell phone, they are able to get critical information about benefits. In addition to that, how you communicate the benefits once they land, there is very important as well. You don't want to have everything in just text or copy. You want some audio. You want visuals, graphics, infographics. You want videos short that are biteable size. You want decision tools to help that click, you know, filters and so on and so forth. So make sure that you create accessibility into your communications plan for open enrollment, easy way as a microsite, but there's a lot of other ways to do this as well.

Speaker 1 (14:51): First, you need to audit how your employees actually have access to the information. Does every single employee from your entry level line person or your lowest paid person to your top paid person, are they able to access it in the same way? Is the opportunity to learn about the benefits the same, regardless of where you sit in the organization, understand that clearly ask your employees at those levels. Like how do you typically access these information? Is it behind a firewall in that it's the intranet, or do they have to log into your benefit administrator? And is that easy to do? Is it a login and password that they can easily find when they get there? Is it searchable? Is it clear how to work through it? Is it different channels of communication available for different learning needs? All these things need to be looked at really carefully.

Speaker 1 (15:49): Again, this is something that you can change tomorrow. This is an easy fix. It takes a lot of work. Don't get me wrong, but the ROI is huge and it's, you're able to influence it and have it enhanced before open enrollment even starts. The other thing I want to just put a note in here on, and this could be a whole episode on its own is when we think about these barriers, one of them, like I just mentioned is also communicating in the channel in the way that your employees need to learn. So whether that's audio, visual combination, text written, all the things, but also the detail level and decision maker. So consider when you're creating content for E your employees who like high level details, snippets of information, what do I need to know bottom line it for me, then you have your employee population who needs to know every single detail and once all the nitty gritty deets so that they can look at it and review it and read the footnotes and all the things.

Speaker 1 (16:58): Then you have people who really need their spouse or partner or guardian or whomever helped them make decisions about their benefits. And then you also have the people who need some assistance, some high touch walking through assistance to understand the information or to like get more one on one help. So also think of that as a way of diversifying your messaging, your opportunity and your access to information. The final thing I want you to look at is the way your OE communications look, feel, and read. Now, this is something that is a little sensitive to those of us who work in HR. We see this all the time. We've been raising our hand about it, and yet it still feels like we have some ways to go, which is the lucky feel. The words we use, the images we use need to be, be inclusive of all the employees that work at our company.

Speaker 1 (18:05): And those we wish to attract, to recruit into our company. Do your communications provide a diverse set of circumstances of graphics, of scenarios so that each employee can see themself in your communication. Now, I bring this up often because images in O E guides in particular is a hot button for most of my clients and for my team, because, you know, we look at the images and we're like, we need a diverse image here. And what we get back is an exactly diverse or it's like, it feels like we're just plopping in something and it's not written in a diverse way or an inclusive way in all the things, right? There's so many failures when it comes to this section here. Also, I want to share that your company isn't alone. I worked with a very well known consulting agency as a client and their DEI team.

Speaker 1 (19:05): So the, they were the DEI team who recruited new employees, refuse to use images that had people who were differently abled in their recruiting materials, like argumentative about it. So this is something that happens everywhere. And it's likely because we have been ingrained in this indoctrinated, in it been in this unknowing or on wakened, I should say racism or internal struggle, or we've had a leader who told us this, isn't what we do, or branding has told us this, isn't what we do, or these aren't approved images or what have you. But this has to stop. We have to start thinking about the circumstances, graphics, scenarios, and words we use in our communications as being inclusive and diverse versus just putting a token diverse image there. I know that just hurt. Like it hurt me saying that, but it's so true. And we need to start doing that.

Speaker 1 (20:15): And so when you look at your communications, you need to have experts help you change this, help drive this change forward. Because again, I'm taking it from the positive perspective that you're not doing this on purpose, that it's coming to you from some, you know, historical situation or you've tried it or branding or whatever's happening happening. But we have to really get some help around how to be truly diverse in the total communication we create versus just, you know, plopping an image in and calling it done. So these are three things that I really want you to consider as you think about your own campaign. And as you think about really everything you do in HR, all these things can apply, you know, being inclusive in your offerings, very important here then are you providing unnecessary or barriers to access information, information, access is key and critical for your employees to deeply understand and feel a part of the conversation versus just having information emailed over or shot over to them without any type of recognition of access and information.

Speaker 1 (21:35): And then finally our, our, all our, all of our employees able to see themselves in the messaging, in the PDFs, in the imagery that we're creating, so that they feel like they are an important part of our organization. Now, these three things are big leaps in some ways, but truly small steps. As we move to change the culture, to truly be an inclusive culture, to start creating anti-racism in our workplace and addressing the racism that has been ingrained throughout. So join me on this journey. And if you're not sure where to start, reach out, let us know because we're going to tell you, we start with a microsite, which captures all of these things in one place and helps you be transparent about those things that you cannot change right now, this podcast is brought to you by a better micro-site with your HR budgets being cut, and you being on the hunt for waste to do more with less.

Speaker 1 (22:38): Why not consider a total rewards or benefits microsite that not only increases your employee experience, but also delivers increased value at half the cost better. Microsites are a hundred percent designed based on what your employees need to know, your branding and your information, creating a diverse solution. That's inclusive of all improving the speed in which your employees can find important benefit information while seamlessly connecting with your enrollment in that provider. Learn more about better microsites at bettHR.com/microsites. That's b-e-t-t-H-R.com/microsites. Thank you so much for tuning in for this episode of the rethink HR podcast. For more information, including the show notes and resources, please go to RethinkHRpoodcast.com/16.

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