News 9/12/2017

SHRM: 2018 Open Enrollment: Targeted Communications Address Differing Needs

In drafting open enrollment communications, HR benefit managers should consider whether they are “reaching people with information that’s relevant to them, taking into consideration where they are in their lives and what their particular needs are,” said Meredith Ryan-Reid, senior vice president at insurance provider MetLife’s group benefits division in New York City.

“Just giving someone a big booklet and showing them everything that’s available, and then asking them to go into a system and make an election, is not how people process information most effectively,” Ryan-Reid said. “They need to be given information in digestible bites, and it has to resonate with them.”

“A benefit guides has a lot of useful information, if you can get employees to open it and read it,” said Mehul Jain, a Los Angeles-based solution consultant at Collective Health, a health benefits administration firm.

“Use short messages as stepping stones to get employees to more detailed information, making it personal,” advised Jain, a former benefits analyst at SpaceX, an aviation and aerospace engineering firm in Hawthorne, Calif. “Encourage employees to think about what’s happening in their lives and relate that to making the right benefit selection. Ask, ‘Are you getting married this year? Is your family growing? Do you expect to have medical expenses? Click here.'”

Segmented Messages

Collective Health has posted A Marketer’s Guide to Open Enrollment, which discusses tailoring open enrollment messages to address different employee types (office, home or “in the field” workers) and those with different family needs. Some examples are highlighted in the chart below.

“The key is to consider the best method of delivery for each group, leveraging different channels to meet people where they are,” said Jain.

Apply Marketing Practices

“Answer the No. 1 question employees have: what’s in it for me?,” advised Bob Armour, chief marketing officer at Jellyvision, a Chicago-based benefits IT firm. “Create a compelling, action-driven campaign message—appeal to their aspirations, and be aware of their fears.

Jellyvision’s The Ultimate Open Enrollment Communications Playbook (2017 edition) presents another take on targeting messaging, as summarized in the table below.

“Develop core messages to all employees, then segment specific messages to targeted groups, leading them to their next steps,” Armour advised.

The 2016 International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans’ Benefits Communication Survey Results found that among the 40 percent of employers that used benefit communications based on employees’ life stage, 81 percent reported their efforts were successful.

Addressing Different Needs

Beyond age-focused lifestage distinctions, employees with differing life experiences tend also to have different priorities and interests, said Kim Buckey, vice president of compliance communications at Birmingham, Ala.-based DirectPath, an employee engagement and health care compliance firm.

During open enrollment, employers can target their messages to encourage better benefit selection decisions, and even better use of benefits. For example, some employees use hospital emergency rooms as their source for primary care, “an expensive approach for employers, health plans and employees,” Buckey said.

In response, one large employer created a targeted enrollment mailing to employees who were most likely to use health benefits inappropriately (based on factors such as income, job level, education and location), and included a list of three primary care physicians participating in the health plan that were closest to each employee’s home. Depending on family makeup, some mailings also included the three closest participating pediatricians and OB/GYN practices.

“Using targeted marketing strategies can improve employee health and lower program costs,” Buckey said. “The proof in this case was that primary care physician visits increased by 41 percent among employees who received the targeted communications.”

This is the third in a five-part series on meeting open enrollment challenges. The previous installment is 2018 Open Enrollment: Developing Your Game Plan. The fourth installment is 2018 Open Enrollment: Using Social Media and Decision-Support Tools.

Read the article here.

(Stephen Miller, CEBS, is the Online Manager/Editor, Compensation & Benefits. Steve covers compensation and benefits for SHRM Online.) 

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