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Open Enrollment 2019: Good Grief, Charlie Brown!

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Each year, the Great Pumpkin rises out of the pumpkin patch that he thinks is the most sincere. He’s gotta pick this one. He’s got to. I don’t see how a pumpkin patch can be more sincere than this one. You can look around and there’s not a sign of hypocrisy. Nothing but sincerity as far as the eye can see. – Linus, It’s The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown
Living in Connecticut, my favorite time of year is the fall. I love the colorful leaves, the chill in the air, and pumpkin spiced everything. But if you work in the benefits industry like me you can end up feeling a little like Linus in the pumpkin patch the day after Halloween. While everyone else was out enjoying cider and fun-sized candy bars, you missed out because of the all-consuming enrollment season. There’s no question that benefits can be complicated. But does annual enrollment need to be? Spoiler alert: the answer is no. Here are some tips to consider during this year’s season. Give them a try, and before you know it, you might just have some extra time to kick back with a pumpkin spice latte and a bag of candy corn. “This is the time of year to write to the Great Pumpkin.” Throughout the year you communicate with employees through a variety of channels to address their specific needs and preferences. But during Open Enrollment it’s a better idea to keep everyone focused on one spot — a microsite or portal — that brings together all of the information and messages they need to make informed choices. Deal with unrelated issues at other times of the year. (Oh, and be sure that the same information gets to employees’ spouses too: The employee is not always the sole decision-maker for household insurance and healthcare.) “Trick or treats come only once a year and I missed it by sitting in a pumpkin patch with a blockhead.” The other side of the messaging coin is to spread healthcare benefit messages over the full year. Why pump up the pressure at the enrollment event when many questions and decisions can be handled much earlier, smoothing the process for everyone? To encourage employees to do their research, make easy and effective cost-comparison and provider look-up tools available. And, of course, whatever tools you provide, make sure they are optimized for mobile devices! Employees will be doing open enrollment tasks where they do all their personal business — on their smartphone. “Never jump into a pile of leaves with a wet sucker.” Find creative ways to get employees’ attention, and once you have it, stay focused on Open Enrollment. For instance, use short videos to convey key messages and explain complex concepts. Interactive videos are a great way to push quick, illustrative education pieces about complex topics. Again, simple is better. A hand-held camera and a strong, clear, brief message will work just fine — and be all the more sincere because of being made in-house. “I’m doomed. One little slip like that could cause the Great Pumpkin to pass you by.” Real-time webinars and information sessions are still powerfully effective in getting the message out. They provide direct contact between you and your employees. They can be interactive through the use of polls, giving you a better idea of where information needs to be clarified. And they can be available afterwards, giving your people a second chance. “Just wait till next year, Charlie Brown. You’ll see! Next year at this same time, I’ll find a pumpkin patch that is *real* sincere and I’ll sit in that pumpkin patch until the Great Pumpkin appears.” We’ve been doing this year in and year out, so it makes sense to step back for a moment and look at the big picture. With a little bit of planning and some expert tips, the enrollment process can be easier for our employees—and ourselves.

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