Start AE Planning Today: Your Future Self Will Thank You

Most annual enrollments happen in the fall. So why start worrying about them in June?

Here’s why.

Because you spend a lot on benefits (30% of compensation), and you want employees to take advantage of and value them. Benefits are a crucial aspect of employee recruitment and retention. In fact, 78% of employees say they’d be more likely to stay with an employer because of their benefits. And even though your annual enrollment might not open until October, a smart, targeted, and effective communication campaign takes some planning. That should start now.

First up – check the rearview mirror.

What worked in last year’s enrollment? What flopped? Did you do a post-enrollment survey? Take a look at it. Look at your email open rates. Find out the volume of calls to your benefits service center. Bring the team together for a debrief, and if you debriefed right after last year’s enrollment – good job! Revisit those meeting notes now. Learn from last year and apply it to this year’s strategy.

Don’t wait until the deal is done. Think through a theme and key messages now.

Chances are the ink isn’t dry on all final benefit decisions and costs yet. That’s fine. By now you likely know the general direction. Big cost increases? Plan changes? New benefits or tools you want to promote? Will this be an active enrollment or is no action required?

Lay out the facts you know. See if a pattern or a theme is emerging—a focus on wellbeing? New benefits that can be personalized? Sort out the key messages your enrollment campaign needs to ensure people hear. (By the way, this is where the O’Keefe Group is happy to help!)

Who are you talking to?

Think through your audiences. Employees, of course. But what about spouses at home? And your HR team – what will they need to know? How will they be supported? How about managers? Are you enlisting them as messengers or resources for employees? Then they’re going to need some preparation and tools. Don’t forget about your benefits service center, who will need information about what’s staying the same and what’s changing.

As you start to think through the cadence of your communications and the different audience groups, start mapping out who needs to know what first. Managers, HR teams and leaders will probably want a preview of what employees will see. So plan accordingly. And speaking of leaders…

Engage leaders ASAP.

There are probably several groups that will need to sign off on your enrollment communications: the legal team, corporate communications, HR and other leadership. Now’s the time to start building out the schedule for their reviews/approvals – even if that’s as vague as “the first half of September.”

Would you like to have a Town Hall to announce benefits changes for enrollment? How about a video or letter from a leader as part of your enrollment campaign? Book time on leaders’ calendars now.

A word of caution… don’t go too far down the road of settling on a theme and developing materials before getting approval from leadership. The CEO who seemed uninterested in benefits communications may, to your surprise, have very strong feelings about benefits taglines and the photos included in your enrollment guide. It’s infinitely easier to make changes to your communications now than when you’re two weeks out from the start of enrollment.

The bottom line.

If you want an impactful communications campaign for annual enrollment that engages and informs all stakeholders, you must get started now. Imagine an enrollment season that runs smoothly… where you actually get some sleep and feel confident employees have the information and support they need to make great decisions. One where you’re getting high fives from your teammates and leadership. It is possible. Plan now and your future self will thank you.

The O’Keefe Group loves helping companies execute amazing annual enrollments. Contact us if you’d like more information.