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Annual Enrollment Communications: Now, And Beyond

Annual Enrollment Communications: Now, And Beyond
Posted on Monday, October 21, 2019 by Monica Hinchey
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It’s never been easier to distribute Annual Enrollment communications to employees.

communication-benefits-woman

Between messaging apps, text updates, and email, HR professionals have more channels than ever at their disposal to keep AE front and center for employees when it matters most.

Although the traditional challenge of reaching employees may be solved, HR faces a new communications issue. As the details of benefit plans have become more complicated in recent years, HR must now focus on encouraging benefits literacy amongst employees. Only 19% of employees consider themselves a “pro” at understanding their benefits—the vast majority are just getting by. Those who don’t understand the benefits available aren’t likely to make the best enrollment decisions.

So, why do so many HR leaders try to fit the enormous challenge of benefits education into the few weeks around AE? Developing a year-round communication program increases the likelihood that employees will gain valuable benefits knowledge over time. Once AE rolls around, employees will have an easier time choosing the benefits that best suit their needs, and HR professionals will have more resources available at a busy time of year.

Here’s why a year-round benefits communication is crucial in today’s workplaces: 

It increases employee benefits literacy for the long term.

Admittedly, a glossary is needed to decipher some benefits plans today, so it’s no wonder that employees are struggling to understand their benefits packages. But unfortunately, this lack of understanding has a negative impact on both employees and employers. Employees make benefits elections without considering how each piece fits together, putting them at the risk for unneeded financial stress and insufficient coverage. For employers to best meet their employee needs, they need to help employees maximize their benefits, and underutilization of plans or over-insuring can lead to disappointing results and strained budgets.

Luckily, HR professionals have the gift of distilling complex benefits information into common language. Doing so on a monthly basis, at the very least, will help plant seeds with employees that build recall once it’s time to peruse that benefits booklet. Start your plan with a monthly calendar, then fill each month with a different benefits topic to share.

It boosts employee engagement and employer investment value.

The weeks leading up to AE are traditionally when employers direct their attentions to benefits communication. Every HR professional is familiar with the numerous messages required to elicit meaningful employee engagement with benefits. Once the enrollment deadline comes around, stress can be high both for HR departments and employees alike. After all, benefits have an enormous impact on our daily lives, from our health and mental well-being, to our finances and our families’ futures.

Even with the degree of importance and the level of preparation that goes into AE, employees typically only spend 17 minutes enrolling in benefits. The chances of missing an important feature or failing to calculate the financial reality of certain plans are great. With communications that encourage employees to utilize the full range of benefits that work for them, employers add valuable decision-making time that leads to smarter choices.

It demonstrates a commitment to empathy. 

Companies who demonstrate empathy to their employees have the advantage of not only a better workplace experience for everyone, but a competitive edge in a tight labor market. Offering the benefits employees are seeking is a key strategy in empathic leadership, and another reason communication matters. For example, across all levels, 92% of workers believe that mental health benefits are an empathetic offering. Yet while 74% of CEOs are aware of mental health programs at their workplaces, only 55% of employees are. Companies that do their research and make empathetic benefits offerings shouldn’t let a lack of employee awareness distract from those efforts.

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