It’s time to re-think annual open enrollment. Long associated with logistical hurdles and tactical challenges, open enrollment season is in fact a unique opportunity to engage employees in a dialogue about their health and personal wellbeing. More than any other time of year, open enrollment season is a period of close attention and interest in corporate communications, benefits, and opportunities. While employees are actively assessing benefits that have a large impact on their families, it’s critical to use this time to articulate not just critical benefits information but also your organization’s overarching culture and wellbeing goals. By capturing employee attention while it’s at its highest, you have the opportunity to drive engagement for the year ahead – both for the individual employee and their immediate family.
For employees, open enrollment can be overwhelming. Comparing complex benefits plans can be confusing and stressful, and there’s often a lot of information to research and internalize. By contrast, programs that are stream-lined, easily accessible, and relevant will be a breath of fresh air. As wellbeing programming evolves from traditional wellness to fully integrated, holistic curriculums, they stand out as effective, fun, and light-hearted counterparts to traditional benefits. By devoting resources to promoting wellbeing programs during open enrollment, you’ll not only attract individuals who are eager to make positive life changes, you’ll have a considerable impact on your company’s culture and bottom line – something your health plan can’t do.
Not all wellbeing programs are created equal. For open enrollment to effectively drive engagement, employers need to showcase programs that are designed with employee behaviors, preferences, and work styles in mind. The best programs have the following four traits in common:
- Centralized and unified.
Wellbeing programs that span different sites and vendors – and require unique usernames and passwords – are difficult to use. Resources are lost, passwords are forgotten, and programs are abandoned. Truly engaging programs are unified, providing diverse sets of information, resources, and programming in a single location. With one destination for all wellbeing needs, unified programs are inherently more engaging; employees know exactly where to go to find what they need.
- Simple and easy to use.
To encourage adoption and ongoing engagement, wellbeing programs have to be easy to access and incorporate into daily schedules and workflows. One way to ensure accessibility is to leverage technology, providing ways for employees to engage with wellbeing from their computer, smartphone, table, or even smartwatch. Another way is to focus on user-centric design, ensuring that important information is front and center, unencumbered by competing design elements. For example, rather than cluttering a list of hyperlinks and resources onto a portal, provide a visually- attractive framework that entices employees to return, day after day.
- Holistic and diverse.
Few things are as personal as health and wellbeing. Each of us has a unique set of goals, challenges, and opportunities to improve. For that reason, engaging wellbeing programs must offer a varied range of programming, allowing a diverse employee population to find materials and tools that fit their particular needs. The days of the HRA and telephonic coaching are gone. Instead, effective wellbeing programs include curriculums and tools for nutrition, resilience training, financial wellbeing, sleep hygiene, physical activity, and management of chronic conditions, family health, and even caregiver resources. Wellbeing is not one-size-fits-all. It’s an ecosystem of factors, and engaging programs will acknowledge the far-reaching determinants of health, and strive to address them.
Even with a clean design, a centralized space, and an encouraging breadth of programming, wellbeing programs need one final ingredient: personalization. Without relevancy, even the most perfectly designed program will fall flat. Use technology to offer timely, consistent, and highly-targeted recommendations for programs that will help individuals no matter where they are on their wellbeing journey, be it getting started, looking to maintain momentum, or tackling a particular goal. Highly engaging wellbeing programs have the sophistication to assess data from user behavior – past programs they’ve completed, milestones they’ve reached, patterns in usage – and leverage it to provide meaningful recommendations just as employees are most available and amenable to a new program. In addition, these same programs are able to pull in data from biometric screenings and HRAs to create customized, highly personal programs that directly impact individual areas of opportunity. This cuts down on cognitive burden for employees that are keen to engage with wellness but unsure of how to begin. Instead of leaving employees to chart their own path, engaging and effective wellbeing programs lead members down their own personalized program, setting them up for success each step of the way.
When leveraged correctly, these four traits combine to create powerful, effective, fun, and personal programs that help individual employees create healthy habits and approach their personal goals with autonomy. Programs with this level of relevancy and accessibility will stand out among open enrollment offerings that are highly detailed, draconian, and are frequently held in suspicion by employees. By promoting an exciting wellbeing program, you’ll drive utilization across all of your benefit offerings, showing employees that your benefits plans are created with them at the center. Wellbeing programs communicate how important employees are to company success.
Here are some additional tips for ensuring open enrollment is a successful driver of year-round engagement:
- Provide clear, concise, and strategic communications.
Open enrollment can be synonymous with corporate communications overload. Avoid email burnout amongst your employees by creating communications that are simple, well-designed, and concise. Instead of exhaustive lists of deadlines, create a visual calendar. Rather than writing long paragraphs of descriptions and options, provide a rubric. Make open enrollment communications digestible, and your employees will come eager, excited, and enthusiastic to sign up.
Work closely with your vendors.
Vendors have the advantage of working with a diverse book of business, and they can bring their learnings to your open enrollment strategy. Speak your vendors early about their needs during open enrollment, the resources you’ll need them to provide, and the employee information they’d like to collect. Your vendors should provide guidance on the most effective communications and materials to bring to the table – don’t be afraid to lean on your partners for help.
- Capitalize on the momentum.
Open enrollment is a high-energy time. Keep that focus on health, wellness, and benefits going by providing a fun, exciting wellbeing program that will carry employees through the holidays into the New Year. Take advantage of your employee’s attention, and rally them around a common wellbeing goal, challenge, or initiative. This will have a positive influence not only on benefits utilization, but on company culture and employee engagement.
By correctly foregrounding wellbeing programming during open enrollment season, you’ll see enhanced engagement year-round, positively impacting the lives of your employees and their families, the culture of your organization, and your company’s bottom line.