Under normal circumstances, open enrollment is already a stressful time for insurance brokers. In 2020, amidst a pandemic, the enrollment season has become even more complex. Without the ability to meet clients in person, effective open enrollment communications will be vital. You have done the hard work to put together benefits plans that cover your clients’ needs, but if employees don’t understand their benefits and their value, how are they going to appreciate them? Great benefits deserve great communications.
Furthermore, in today’s job market, a competitive benefits package is a great tool to attract talent. It also enhances employee engagement and retention. Without the right communications plan, employees can miss out on the valuable benefits offerings, causing dissatisfaction and losses for both you and your clients. In this Broker Tool Belt post, we share tips for insurance brokers to build effective open enrollment communications, ensure employee participation, and keep moving your business forward to define the next normal.
1. Tailor Your Open Enrollment Communications to Every Client’s Needs
Employees preparing for retirement, empty nesters, workers with young families, and young singles all have different benefits needs and interests. With open enrollment season upon us, take the time to understand each of your clients and their employees. Start by reviewing workforce demographics and benefits usage. With that information, determine what worked in the past, what didn’t work, and what obstacles they are facing at the moment.
Then, you can build an open enrollment communications plan for each client. Utilize the information you’ve gathered to get to know your audience and create personal and relevant messaging. If you want to go a step further, after you’ve packaged benefits by target group for each client, create a communications plan for each group. Promoting messaging that speaks to each group’s needs will boost engagement. For example, you can highlight benefits for kids when talking to young families.
In addition, keep in mind that different employee groups may value different delivery systems. For instance, baby boomers might be more comfortable attending a virtual meeting in which you explain step-by-step the enrollment process. By contrast, younger employees might only need a detailed email and a benefits enrollment software that guides them through the process.
2. Keep the Messaging and Directions Simple
The details behind a benefits plan might be fascinating to specialists like yourself. However, exhaustive explanations in your open enrollment communications might cause employees to disengage. Make all the information available for curious employees, but keep your materials as simple as possible. Thus, the key messaging will be less cluttered, while employees interested in learning more can still access the extra information.
The prominent spot in your materials should be reserved for explaining benefits options and the steps employees need to follow to complete enrollment. Giving employees an understandable summary of the benefits plans and step-by-step directions to enroll is key to high participation and engagement.
To do so, explain the information in as many ways as you are able too. Multimedia messaging provides different methods for employees and their families to engage with their benefits. Expanding your benefits communications delivery methods will help employees recognize the value of each benefit and make better benefits decisions. Consider a combination of methods such as:
- Electronic communications, such as emails or instant messaging
- Videos or webinars
- Packages mailed to home addresses to involve the family
- Social media platforms
- Live hotline for questions and concerns
- Materials such as Q&As, infographics, “Did you know?” sheets, or case studies
3. Your Messages Should Explain the What and Why
While enrollment is a process employees go through year after year, your benefits communications should always start with “what” and “why”. Essentially, what are the benefits being offered and why? If there are changes in the benefits program from the previous year, be clear about it: what are the changes and why were those changes made? Don’t sugarcoat any bad news, such as an increase in health plan premiums or deductibles. Employees will see through the messaging and won’t like any attempts to hide changes that could be perceived as negative.
Focusing on what and why in your open enrollment communications also allows you to highlight the important value of the benefits program. For example, this is a good time to promote wellness or encourage retirement savings. What is a 401k and why should employees enroll?
As we highlighted in the introduction, benefits packages are essential to attract talent. However, if companies want to leverage those benefits, it’s important to show employees how valuable they are and make sure what benefits are being offered to them. You are in the unique position of helping your clients provide that messaging, along with benchmarking data relevant to their industry.
4. Extend Your Communications Beyond Open Enrollment
When January comes around, be proud of the work done: you enrolled 80-90% of your book of business in three months. Now, there is one more thing to get done. After the open enrollment season, it’s key to email your clients a post-enrollment overview.
Adding an overview to your open enrollment communications is the step to remind your clients of your hard work. It will take you a short period of time and it doesn’t have to be detailed, two pages that are easy to skim would be enough. Your overview should include:
- Your clients’ main open enrollment goals and outcomes
- Lessons learned and what you could do differently next year
- Next steps until next year’s open enrollment season
- Potentially, the money you helped your clients’ save
- How many policies employees signed up for and any other relevant enrollment stats, for example, participation rate.
In addition, don’t cut the conversation with your clients just after open enrollment. Make yourself available to talk about the overview you put together. Ensure the contact information on your materials and various digital channels is up to date. An ongoing conversation will provide your agency with credibility and a broader reach.
Final Thoughts About Open Enrollment Communications
You’ve got plenty on your plate during the busy season and focusing on open enrollment communications might seem like additional work. However, effective communication will help you differentiate yourself from your competition and make the most of open enrollment.
Brokers who want to offer excellent service to their clients should put together open enrollment communications that connect employees to their benefits and cover all the bases, from encouraging smarter healthcare decisions to helping employees manage contributions to their retirement accounts. Annual open enrollment communications give you the opportunity to influence how employees see benefits. You will only be able to increase participation, and therefore your commission, if the benefits offered are valued and meet the needs of employees and their dependents.