Top 10 Open Enrollment Tips to Avoid the Eye Roll

Posted by Rebecca Throop on Aug 16, 2018 7:30:00 AM

“He has the attention span of a lightning bolt.” Robert Redford once described Paul Newman that way, yet we could apply it today to the annual Open Enrollment process. You have spent the past year assessing, analyzing, and creating a best-in-class benefit offering for 2019. It’s time to roll it out to your workforce. But now what?

We all know the challenges of communicating benefits throughout a company that is larger than a small, one location office. Employees greatly value the benefits you offer, but they do not have the time or attention bandwidth to read extensively about them. Email inboxes are flooded, workforces are multigenerational with different communication preferences, and benefit offerings are confusing. Remember, your employees have not spent the past 12 months taking the time to understand the value of each benefit, the cost and how they can possibly work together.

Human beings are on information overload. That is why at Torchlight, our client strategy and marketing teams work hand-in-hand to develop best practice communication tips and tools for our clients’ benefit rollout and communication plans. After all - employee communications is - well - marketing.

Here are a few of our Top Ten (cue David Letterman) Open Enrollment tips straight from our whiteboards:

Torchlight Top 10 Tips

Keep it Simple and Succinct

Flooding employees with multiple rounds of verbose marketing slicks is not effective. It only kills trees and ends up lining office garbage cans. Keep any printed materials simple, as visual as possible and limited to only the basics, as a teaser for all benefits. This also extends into email communications - simplicity is as king as cash.

Personalize, Personalize, Personalize

You are speaking to a multi-generational audience with different levels of tech savviness and preferences for receiving information. You may also be dealing with a highly decentralized workforce who does not all have access to computers. Make sure you understand your audience. Do you have a percentage of staff who wants printed material? Should you communicate via a benefits portal/website? Are mobile apps required due to a dispersed, decentralized structure? Would flyers posted on bathroom doors be useful? Should some materials be sent home? Truly analyze not only your benefit choices, but your communication requirements and discuss this with your benefit vendors.

Be Loud and Proud

Ensure that any website which hosts your benefit offerings and related information is bright, visual, simply designed and also is kept outside of your company’s firewall. A significant percentage of partners/spouses are involved in benefit choices and long-term use. Ensure that both they and your employees can easily access the information anytime.

Incentivize with Flare

No one wants to open yet another email. Marketers fight the battle of open and click through rates daily. If this is your main method of communication, embrace the marketer’s mantra- “People like free stuff.” Have some fun, use a bit of budget and provide your employees some free goodies as reward for reading your educational benefit emails. We have found that local meal vouchers, small branded gifts or other gift cards personalized to where someone lives dramatically increases email engagement. Link a call-to-action with the benefit and the the receipt of gift for best results.

Please Make it Easy

Employee benefit offers seem complicated, especially with the degree of medical cost shifting onto the employee that has occurred in the industry. Once a family has spent time and tried to analyze the impact of the new medical plan choices, you’ve often lost their attention regarding the rest of your offerings. Keep explanations and the use of other benefits and tools as easy, quick and intuitive, as possible. If you can, find visual or calculator type tools to show the full value of benefits to your employees.

open enrollment communication tips

Share your Insights

If your year-long process to chose new benefits involved soliciting input from employee surveys or ERGs, share these learnings! People may have less time and shorter attention spans, but they love to learn and to be included. Share the learnings and insights you gleaned in a cool infographic and promote the fact that you listened. Information transparency fosters overall company connectivity and feelings of empowerment. It also shows your workforce that you responded to their needs versus simply bringing on the latest hype.

Invest Time - It’s Money

We understand that your department is strapped for time - and energy. However, offering multiple open door sessions for employees to attend, ask questions and obtain actual sign up assistance is effective. People are more apt to literally log onto a benefit and sign up, if they are helped 1:1. Allocate time during both open enrollment, as well as at least once per quarter during the coming year for those benefits that have rolling on-boarding. Video assistance also helps extend the helping hand to more individuals.


Instead of the usual boring language explaining a benefit within an email, printed slick or video, describe it with testimonials from actual employees. People resonate with stories and situations with which they can identify. Provide context as to how the benefit has provided value to others, especially if it is a repeat benefit. This is particularly helpful for more non traditional benefits such as wellness/wellbeing, family focused, financial, etc.

Go Old School

Every age employee from Boomers to Millennials knows the term “Lunch-and-Learn.” They work. Again, people like free stuff, and people really enjoy food! However, have each department’s head manager/supervisor host the meeting and provide the benefit information versus someone from HR doing so. This can boost overall employee engagement with each individual manager, as well as send a message that these benefits and the employees are important to management.

Study Up

Really our #1 tip is so simple, yet we find so many gaps related to this one. Know these benefits inside and out yourself! You likely were not responsible for the analysis around each and every benefit your company now offers. Try demos, onboard yourself, learn the materials and value propositions. If you can’t seamlessly discuss how to enroll, why someone should sign up, or succinctly share how one benefit can work in conjunction with another - why will your employees care? Any of your benefit vendors should be able to assist you with this.

Open Enrollment can be daunting, exhausting and something that you just want to power through and complete. We understand! Later November and December is a nirvana for Human Resources! However, try and view Open Enrollment time - and other times throughout the year - as your most impactful and influential (and maybe fun?) times. You truly are making a difference in people’s lives by offering best-in-class benefits. Have fun with communicating this to your workforce. The more they understand, the more they will thank you.

Any questions? We’re happy to chat through the best practices we offer our clients anytime!

Topics: Employee Benefits, blog, Human Resources