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How to Effectively (and Efficiently) Engage Employees During Open Enrollment

Blog - How to Effectively Engage Employees During OE

There are 8,760 hours in a year. On average, companies dedicate 336 of them to their open enrollment period. But employees spend less than an hour actually selecting their benefits.1 

As an HR and benefits leader, you want to make sure those decisions are made with care and that your employees are selecting the right benefits for themselves and their families. 

So, while the time employees spend selecting benefits may not be significant, the amount of time you spend planning for and preparing employees for open enrollment rightfully is. 

Now, the seismic shift to remote work has made that preparation even more difficult. Connecting with employees that you don’t often see face-to-face can be a significant challenge. 

The truth is that the traditional workplace is shifting. Technology allows employees to communicate and collaborate anytime and anywhere. More employers are incorporating work flexibility as an option for employee retention efforts. There are also those industries, such as retail and hospitality, that inherently have a geographically distributed workforce. All told, more than half of the workforce works remotely at least some of the time.2 

Of course, out-of-sight doesn’t mean out-of-mind for you. But how do you make sure that all your employees – remote or not – are fully prepared to make the best benefit decisions at open enrollment?   

Engaging Employees Prior to and During OE 

Creating a plan that caters to the whole workforce is a must. Here are some considerations as you build out your plan to put benefits engagement in overdrive for those employees spread across multiple locations: 

Amplify your message with video   

Did you know... 

  • One minute of video equals 1.8 million words.

  • Employees are 75 percent more likely to watch a video than read.4 

Video is effective. There is no faster way to extend your presence and message across your workforce than with video. 

Plus, videos have the unique quality of being able to convey tone and emotion, which can go a long way in personalizing your communication. That’s important when your workforce isn’t physically in the office. 

Your video campaign can begin months before open enrollment and can include many different types of videos. Here are some ideas you might consider: 

  • Creating a series of videos to simply get employees primed for open enrollment. Think of it as a monthly countdown to decision-making time.   

  • Providing videos that define basic health care and insurance concepts, so employees have a quick, go-to resource to clear up any confusion they might have. 

  • Introducing a new benefit plan? Share what employees can expect, what it means for them and how they can compare their options to make the right choice. 

  • Trying to get those procrastinators to select their benefits earlier during open enrollment? Send a video message from your CEO or HR executive encouraging them to take action. 

If you want direct face-to-face time with employees, but you can’t be there in person, consider setting up virtual meetings that everyone, in and out of the office, can access at the same time. For clusters of employees that work in remote offices, it’s a good opportunity to connect them to the benefits team, show them that you’re there to support them and answer their important questions.    

Want to incorporate video into your strategy? Check out ways to boost your benefits campaign.  

Try out text messaging and push notifications for quick nudges 

Text messaging has become a popular form of communication for quick reminders of things like doctor appointments and even the latest sales at your favorite store. Push notifications are equally as popular for retail mobile apps like Amazon (why wouldn’t you want to know when your package is 10 stops away?). 

Have you considered how efficient and effective this form of communication could be for employees during open enrollment? 

Text messages can be easy to create, manage and schedule, and they’re increasingly the preferred form of fast communication these days. How do we know? Well, here are the facts: 

  • Text messaging is the preferred channel of communication for consumers5 

  • 95 percent of texts are read and responded to within 3 minutes of delivery

  • 60 percent of consumers opt-in to push notifications7 

So, texts and mobile apps are really a perfect vehicle for quick, pointed messages that support the rest of your communication efforts. 

Ask your benefits administration partner about options to automate text messages and/or push notifications to communicate key open enrollment milestones and benefit updates with employees. 

Get strategic content and design guidance 

While distributing communication that encourages employees to take action is essential, it’s also imperative that you make that action easy to complete. That’s where content and design come in.  

For example, think about when you pay your credit card online. Most major credit cards now come with some type of perk program where you earn cash back, and they also let you know when you’re eligible for an “upgrade” or when it’s time to increase your limit – all of which are presented with information when you log into your account to help you make an informed decision. 

Now, translate that experience to benefits. Easier said than done, right?  

That’s where partnering with content and design consultants can help. Instead of trying to keep up with it all, you can rely on strategic guidance to help ensure your employees always see the latest and greatest benefits content while also optimizing the design of your benefits portal or website.  

Lean on support center friends 

Even with the best technology in use, you'll always have employees that need one-on-one support to get their questions answered. When it comes to your remote employees, they may not have the ability to attend your company’s benefits fair and obviously can’t just swing by the HR office to ask questions. 

So, they are likely to turn to their phones to call someone for support. And if you have a large remote population, those calls can quickly become overwhelming during the open enrollment period. 

Turning to a dedicated support center can enable you to scale up your support when you need to, giving employees a way to get reliable answers to their questions without putting additional strain on you and your team. It's a win-win. 

Just make sure that your support center partner will take the time to get to know your company and its benefits program inside and out, so employees get as seamless an experience as possible. The best-case scenario is that your employees can't tell the difference between calling into the support center and calling into your office! 

Looking for a support partner that can scale to fit your needs during open enrollment? Check out these options.  

For more resources to help you manage your open enrollment communications, download our comprehensive guide for checklists, templates and timelines.


1 Unum
2 Statistics on Remote Workers That Will Surprise You
3 Insivia
4 Forrester Research
5 eMarketer
6 SMS Corporation
7 Airship