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Welcome to episode 17 of the Rethink HR podcast, brought to you by bettHR.

This is part five, the final episode in our series about open enrollment (OE)/annual enrollment (AE), focused on how to put all of the pieces we’ve talked about, together. What types of communications and channels to use for OE this year—to drive culture change, create a better experience for all employees at your company, and even same some money.

Three steps to get started:

  1. Look back at how you’ve communicated OE in the past and take note of how your employees are already used to receiving information about their benefits. We don’t want to change everything and start from scratch, but you may find that some of the channels you’ve leveraged in the past are no longer available or are not affordable this year.
  2. Evaluate your employee population and remove all accessibility barriers for your messaging and participation.
  3. Determine the ideal employee experience you want for your employees for this OE, what success looks like, and then create your plan.

In this episode, we share how one of our clients remapped their communications to adjust for their 2020 spring enrollment. You’ll learn what their communication plan looked like in years past, where they were hesitant to make change, what their enrollment looked like this year, and their results.

In addition, we share specific tactics and ways for your to change your past campaign strategies into winning communications, this year—all of which you can do on your own, in-house.

Listen in, to learn more!

In This Episode

  • This is the fifth and final episode in a series all about open enrollment—how to use communication tactics that work for your company while getting you better results and saving you money.
  • A client case study from their spring 2020 enrollment.
  • Specific tactics and suggestions to revamp your previous collateral, into better performing or logistically capable methods this year.




Nothing can stop the man with the right mental attitude from achieving his goal. Nothing on earth can help the man with the wrong attitude.” – Thomas Jefferson. #hr #employees #benefits #shrm Click To Tweet

Speaker 1 (00:00): I am so excited for today's episode, because this is where we finally put all the things together and you can create something all your own for open enrollment. This is the fifth in a series, all about open enrollment and it's the final one. And it's OE /AE annual enrollment, whichever one you prefer. So we've previously covered the need for you to have a benefits microsite in episode 13, all the communication strategies you need to know to have a successful OE in episode 14, the budget saving strategies that can deliver a huge ROI for you in episode 15, and how to create an inclusive experience that reinforces anti-racism during open enrollment for every employee on your staff in episode number 16. So today we're putting it all together so that you can plan out your open enrollment communications. And this is going to be the tactics of how to actually put all these pieces together on your own.

Speaker 1 (01:09): I'm going to give you an example, and I'm going to go deep into what you can do based on what you're already doing. So now your plan is likely going to vary because we always want our communication strategies and tactics and channels, the way you deliver your messages to match your specific employees needs, because remember open enrolled comment and all of your communications that originate from HR or employee experience or whatever that is, is all about creating and reinforcing a positive employee experience for your employees. So we don't plug and play here. We can borrow, we can learn, we can leverage, but we're not going to plug and play because your employees are going to not feel heard or listened to. And we're going to miss the mark. So today I'm going to share a plan that some of our clients are using so that you can borrow and adjust, and then also get really tactical of how you can do it on your own.

Speaker 1 (02:18): So to start in order to create something that really works this year, you want to look back at how you've communicated OE in the past, and take note of how your employees are already used to receiving information about their benefits. We don't want to change everything and start from scratch, but you may find that some of the channels that you've leveraged in the past are either no longer available now in person stuff or not affordable for your HR budget this year. And here's the thing I know we all are nervous or tough or whatever the right word is around losing our HR budgets. We hang onto it really tightly, especially when it comes to things like annual campaigns of any sort. We don't want to let go of any money, because then we say, it's gone forever and we're going to have to make, do with less from here on out.

Speaker 1 (03:21): And now that may be true, but I want you to really think through a different lens when it comes to how you're communicating your open enrollment messages, because there may be a lot of ways that you can save money with this this year and get cleaner on your HR budget and have a better ROI. So don't resist if your budget is being cut and you're like, I can't do anything else. That's different. I'm already losing a lot of money. We're going to walk through exactly how to address that in just a minute. Okay? So we are starting with what we've done, and we want to make sure that we're not taking out everything. Our employees learn from us, how to communicate, how to listen to our messages and what to pay attention to. So if we want to be effective communicators, and we've always sent emails, we don't want to just stop sending emails.

Speaker 1 (04:18): Our employees are going to expect some level of sameness that we've ingrained in them to learn about our benefits information. We're just going to get a lot better at that going forward. So that's the first thing. Then I want you to look at your employee population and understand all of the accessibility barriers for your messaging and for their participation. If you want to know exactly how to do this, you can listen to episode 16 of the rethink HR podcast, where I go deep into how to create accessibility in your messages. Right now, we have baked in a lot of unnecessary or barriers to simple benefit information. Now I'm not talking about the personalized details that should be behind a firewall. That should be very hard to access. And when we talk about the total rewards package that you provide the benefits as your differentiator, hiding them behind an SSO makes absolutely no sense, and it creates an unnecessary accessibility barrier.

Speaker 1 (05:33): So I want you to really go deep in that and understand where those barriers are, where you can be a little bit more transparent or sharing of the information so that you can have more participation and be more inclusive and accessible. And then finally, I want you to determine the ideal employee experience you want for your employees for this open enrollment. What does success look like? What can we do to use this one moment in time, this OE/AE experience as a campaign in specifics, how can we create that as the start of the new culture we want to build? How can we leverage this as a shining example, going forward of how we incorporated a better DEI initiative and anti-racism workplace for our company, let's leverage that let's create something that actually helps us move forward that moves the needle finally, and creates a better experience.

Speaker 1 (06:47): So those are the three things I want you to start with. Now, let me share an example for a client that we've worked with. We'll just call them client C. And in the past, in years past, they did a lot of plugin play of rinse and repeat for their annual enrollment campaigns and truly they weren't very employee friendly in their messaging. So what I mean by that is they used to every single year create a 50 plus usually 60 plus or more pages, PDF guide for annual enrollment detailing all of the benefit information, everything like every single minute detail with all the compliance language and all the caveats. And if in this, and you're not, and all the things in a guide and what they would do is they would post it on their benefits administrator enrollment website. They would send an email out saying, Hey, this PDF's available and put it on the internet.

Speaker 1 (07:50): So that's how they communicated. That was their biggest messaging campaign or piece of collateral for their open enrollment campaign. In addition to that, they had in-person benefit fairs for their sites. Although here's, what's super interesting, a pretty large percentage of their staff, particularly their staff that is considered a quote unquote professional staff. So managers and above were remote. And so they would create a lot of local culture and they would rely on sort of the, the facilities person there, or the HR onsite person there to be responsible for creating the local collateral about things like in person sessions and benefit fairs and so on. But their remote staff didn't have anything didn't have any type of communications to address these same things. So they allowed for in person benefit meetings at these sites, but those who were offsite or remote just had a gap, they just didn't really communicate to them.

Speaker 1 (09:02): In addition, they used to post generic videos about their benefits that their vendors provided, and they would plop them on the enrollment site. Although as we've all seen on enrollment sites, they're really hard to find. And because they're, you know, plug and plays from the vendor, they weren't specific enough, they weren't helpful enough. So they weren't watched frankly, and they were really hard to find. They also used a comprehensive decision tool that uses claim data to compare the plans. And it's, it sat on the enrollment site and would, you'd have to log in to the enrollment site. And then you would click to the decision tool in order to use it. And honestly, it was a really, really great tool. It's still a great tool by the way, but they didn't have any usage. They, our usage was literally 7% each year, 7% of their eligible benefit eligible employees actually inserted the information and popped out a result in the decision tool.

Speaker 1 (10:08): Now, we all know those decision tools, especially the ones that use this claim. Data are crazy expensive. So to only have 7% of your employees use it is a huge gap in spend and ROI. And finally, they sent a lot of emails out about annual enrollment. They didn't track him. They had no metrics around how the emails were performing, who opened, who clicked, how many were red. And they also missed out on about 12% of their workforce who were line workers, or just didn't have access to email addresses. So when looking at the new world and looking at how to adjust things for O E for them this year now, by the way, they're not a fall enrollment, they're a spring enrollment. So we have some results that have been completed in this new environment. We realized that access was a huge problem. Their spend was a problem, and also being able to do in person, things is a problem.

Speaker 1 (11:17): And so we needed to come up with a new plan to not only create better communications and a better employee experience, but also to make sure that we were communicating their important information about benefits and O E for their employees. So the first thing we did is we created a microsite so that there is one consistent home in place for all of their communications. And it's accessible from any device without having to go through an SSO or worse, a clunky enrollment site. Now, this was not something that this company had really thought to do. They, you know, we talk about it often with them, but they weren't necessarily game for it until this year. And this year, they realized through everything that has occurred in the first half of 2020, that there just wasn't a great way to consistently communicate with their employees. So a microsite was a great fit, and it's going to be a full microsite for total rewards.

Speaker 1 (12:25): And then we're going to repurpose some of this stuff for future use more on that coming soon. But they, they knew this was the answer. They knew it was the best way for them to create a consistent, ongoing conversation with their employees. In addition to the microsite, we also took a deep dive and had a pretty big conversation over there, 50 plus page enrollment guide. And we ended up doing things very differently when it came to communicating information because the landscape has changed. So instead we created a 12 page enrollment guide. That was action-based only. So we only outlined the actions and decisions that are needed to take on it with one note, with one call to action, to go to the microsite for all of the information and details. So we updated that. We really created a new experience. The guide was action only.

Speaker 1 (13:29): So if you were that high level person and only wanted to see communications at a high level or bottom line at, for me, this was for you, but we also had a place for employees who wanted all the details or who had questions, or wasn't quite sure, or wasn't the best healthcare consumer yet. We guided them to the microsite for all the details and on the microsite, in addition to all the things and information that you need, we also created a S updated in depth guide. So we took their 50 plus page guide with the previous year's information. We changed the design a bit. We also create obviously incorporated this year's information, and we removed the action items for specific things. So if you look at a detailed 50 page, annual enrollment guide, we've all seen those, right? For each thing, it was like click here to learn more, click here, to enroll, click here, to do this click here.

Speaker 1 (14:29): And then we were asking people to go to like 50 different places. That's an exaggeration, but we did ask him to go a lot of places. So what we did in the in depth guide is we created all the information. We provided all the specific details. And you know, if this is you and this is not you and you're eligible or not all the things that made it, clump clients really happy as well, but we removed the individual calls to action and had one call to action. If you want to learn more, if you're ready to enroll, go to the microsite one CTA, and this really helped those employees who wanted the details or who are new to the company, or what have you to understand the information and have some place that they could go for more or to take action when they were ready.

Speaker 1 (15:22): And it was one thing they needed one home. So we put them all to the microsite. The next is, we felt really awkward about those virtues, the benefits fairs that were happening for only part of the employee population. And this year, they weren't going to be able to happen at all. So we created a virtual benefits fair on the microsite, and that was a place that you could go and get all the vendor information and specific forms and all the things learn more about them. It was hosted on the microsite. It was as a page, very easy to do set up. And it just basically grouped different types of benefit offering vendors together so that you can go find out about them, you know, in category, whether it's medical or dental or 401k, or what have you, and get the information, get the forms, and then pop out quickly to that admit like to that vendor's website for more information.

Speaker 1 (16:24): And they would take the conversation from there. So it wasn't a fair experience we looked into doing that. There's a lot of technology where you can like walk into the virtual benefits, fair and click this booth. This client didn't need it. Their employees wouldn't have had it. Like we don't need those bells and whistles. We made it easy. We looked at user experience over look and feel so to speak in this case are like over technolog, technological, realizing it, gosh, that, you know what I'm trying to say, we didn't want to make it too complicated. And so we created a it still was interactive. It just wasn't a click, the booth type of experience, or like where you saw yourself walking into the booth. We had a booth, but it wasn't a walking in type of thing. So the other thing we did is we created scenarios that were interactive and helped people get to the amazing decision, support tool.

Speaker 1 (17:24): We wanted to increase traffic there. They were already in a contract to use this year. It is a really great tool. Wasn't something that they could necessarily let go of. And so we, if we had it and we were paying for it, we wanted it to be utilized. So we created an inclusive set and diverse set of employees, scenarios that helps employees see themselves in those scenarios to understand what they needed to know, and then drove them to the decision support tool, to find out more information, and then ultimately see which plan, which benefit option was right for them. We continue to send emails out, but this time we sent them with metrics and tracking and we updated the messages to very clearly have one call to action. So instead of compiling a list of eight things that employees needed to do to enroll or places to go to enroll or find out more information, we stuck very clearly with one call to action.

Speaker 1 (18:28): We also created a benefits enrollment information video, and this is a high quality video with a PowerPoint and animation, all the things and a voiceover, and this replaced the series of in-person benefit meetings. It was that type of information, all about what they needed to know about every benefit and what was changing and new and actions needed. But it was a designed video that was about 18 to 20 minutes long and was fun to watch. It was visually exciting. It wasn't a recorded webinar, which for them, they tried it and didn't have a lot of listeners. And, you know, sometimes when you do a webinar or the audio, isn't great, and the slides and there, you know, so we did a design video for them, and it had enormous watch rates and watch till the end rates, which is something we always look for.

Speaker 1 (19:25): We also added in a way for people to ask their questions after watching the video, or if they were on the microsite, we did that a few ways. We put a bot on the microsite so that they can get quick answers to the FAQ as they may have. And if they couldn't find the answer, or if the bot couldn't get them to the right place on the microsite for the information, it would then connect their question to the call center or the HR inbox to have some follow up there. So it was some self service to a higher touch provider or option once they were there. So with that co this company spent, their spend went down 20% because they use better not their benefits administrator for their communications. So they weren't using a plug and play. They weren't sort of doing an off the shelf solution.

Speaker 1 (20:20): They were able to get it very customized and their spend went down, their enrollment rates went up. So it was an active enrollment. So all employees had to either opt in or out. And in years past they would have a lot of missed employees in that they wouldn't enroll or they didn't de-select. And so there were a risk of cases and exceptions that had to me bait and so on and so forth. That was not the case this year. Now, of course, there's always a few exceptions are stragglers, but that decrease was significant because the number of people who actually enrolled when we needed them to happened their HR call centers calls for help and assistance went down over 35%. And we did some experienced surveys on the microsite and after enrollment and the survey showed over 88% of employees experienced a good or great experience during annual enrollment.

Speaker 1 (21:22): So those results are fantastic. Not only were they more customized and better for the employees and more inclusive and all accessible and all those things, but they also spent less money. Now I promise that I would tell you how to do it for your own process. Even if you don't have a vendor like better to work with, you can still adjust a few things in your open enrollment campaign in order to create a better experience. So I'm going to give you some ideas that you can implement all on your own right now, the first is if you've historically had in person benefit fairs and that's not feasible this year, or really recommended at this point, you can absolutely create a virtual experience. Yes, you can get like a huge software that costs six figures that I won't name right now to have like the booth and you walk in and thing totally not necessary by the way.

Speaker 1 (22:19): But what you can do on either for cheap or at no cost is to create a landing page or an intranet page for your company on, for HR, where you just compile the vendor information forms and details in one place, and just have them like click out to those vendors with questions, or you can create a forum on your internet. So if you already have an intranet, there's like a, a place that you can create a Q and a, or just a landing page where people can type in their questions. Or if you use something like Yammer, you can create a forum there for vendor information to be asked and shared, or you can do a recorded webinar with your vendors popping in and out. So start with vendor one. And thank you so much. You've heard all about this one and here's fender two, blah, blah, blah.

Speaker 1 (23:13): Okay. And once you do that, you can upload the entire webinar, or you can edit it totally easy to do on your desktop or laptop with free software edited into the, just the singular vendors and upload those onto your internet site. Or I love this one. You can have each vendor record a quick three minute video or less about their offerings and have, and then put a video series together, kind of like a mini YouTube channel for your company, where that you can put all the information from the vendors there. So that is I think, four or five ways that you can recreate an in-person benefits fair on your, on the fly we belittle spend. The next thing is a lot of people have in-person benefit meetings. So what you can do if you can't do an in person, which again, not really recommended right now is you can record a webinar that can be played on demand.

Speaker 1 (24:14): Now, my one thing here is if you do do a webinar, I want you to make sure that there is a way for people to submit their questions. So you can do this by a chat, an email box, a forum, a Yammer topic, just have a way for employees to feel like they can get help if needed. Now, if you do a webinar, what I wouldn't recommend is having a webinar, maybe that's 45 minutes and then two hours of Q and a after don't do that. You, what you want to do is have their webinar be a clean recording of just the webinar to be played on demand, and then have either an FAQ below it, or have a way for people to click, to ask their own question. Okay. The other thing that you can do is do what we did, which is create a video that is a very high experience, video overview that teaches everything you need to know about benefits.

Speaker 1 (25:10): It's like the webinar you'll still use the same presentation or deck. But you're going to have it animated. Your it's not going to be on a recorded line. You can just record it in PowerPoint itself, even with you just doing a voice over, or you can hire someone to do a voice over on like Fiverr or like audio junk or voiceover jungles the name of it at a very low cost, but you can do that and have a video that looks good. That feels good. That's an overview with a little bit more pizzazz. Okay. The other thing you can do is you can do a series of live webinars with Q and a at the end. I would just, again, for this, make sure that it's accessible from outside of your network or SSO. So you're being accessible and inclusive of where your employees can hear and listen to these things.

Speaker 1 (26:07): Now, if you've historically only relied on email to talk about open enrollment, I want you to update your email content. So here's the thing you may end up sending more emails and that's totally okay, because in each email you're going to have more credibility because you're only going to have one call to action. Also, you may consider for accessibility and inclusiveness to offer a tech service that your employees can opt into to be notified when there's something they need to do or something they need to know about open enrollment. Or you can add in a company only podcast where you share the updates and action items and you deliver those via audio. And this podcast can be accessed anywhere as long as the employee has the right access. So the access details like login and password. Now you can definitely create a company podcast, have it even be hosted on a podcast player and just have it be password protected.

Speaker 1 (27:13): So that's another way that you can like add in some serious value for no cost or little cost. We're talking like $20 a month that most people now, if historically, you've only mailed things home or mailing things home where a big linchpin for your open enrollment campaigns and this year, you just don't have the budget for it. My response is that's totally okay. Mailed things home are not usually super helpful or accessible anyway. So instead at least create a digital version of that, a PDF at a minimum or an interactive PDF that you can share via email. Post-It let text people that it's available, all the things, or you can create a digital virtual experience your employees can use. So have the same information or, you know, I always say, make it better, just presented a little differently. You can create a landing page on your intranet.

Speaker 1 (28:11): You can obviously do a microsite, but have the information available that you would usually mail home. Just think about it differently, package it, use the other channels available to you to package it differently. So that is a lot of information about how you can actually apply the strategies we've been talking about for the last five weeks into a real tactical communication campaign. That creates a better employee experience for all employees who work at your company. While at the same time, starting to change the conversation around the culture. You truly want to foster and create. I hope you found these suggestions helpful. I hope you also enjoyed the open enrollment annual enrollment series. And I hope that you are able to make your fall annual enrollment. The best it's ever been. This contest is brought to you by better microsites with your HR budgets being cut and you being

Speaker 2 (29:16): Hunt for ways to do more with less. 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 provider. Learn more about better microsites at bettHR.com/microsites that's B-E-T-T-HR.com/ microsites. Thank you so much for tuning into this episode of the rethink HR podcast. More information, including show notes and resources. Please go to RethinkHRPodcast.com/17.

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