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Virtual open enrollment: what you need to succeed

Here's what you need to know to hit your health benefits virtual open enrollment goals during the pandemic and when workforces go hybrid.

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If you’re like many employers, you might’ve been banking on an in-person open enrollment experience this year—no Zoom happy hours or benefits bingo needed. But, with the arrival of the Delta variant, most return-to-office plans were interrupted, and many employers are relying on learnings from their 2021 virtual open enrollment (OE) season to figure out how to keep their employees engaged and informed.

At Collective Health, our Client Success, Customer Experience, Design, and Member Services teams have been working with customers to creatively build, customize and market their OE communications to members since 2013. Over the last year, they’ve worked very closely with customers to tailor their OE plans to the virtual world, and have gleaned a great deal of insight around keeping employees engaged in this ‘next normal.’

“After years of guiding our clients through Open Enrollment, we have gained unique insight and perspective around what’s needed to drive an effective welcome experience, said Ellie, our Team Lead for Member Advocacy. “This year, we used our experience to think through the best packaging based on individual client needs, and ways we can guide them in the direction that aligns with their goals for the upcoming plan year.”

Here’s some of our tips.

1. Promote your digital health solutions.

Clearly highlight specific wellness programs or digital health solutions that you think your employees will find valuable. While the pandemic sparked a huge uptick in the adoption of mental health support and family-forming care solutions, it’s on employers to ensure their employees understand their value and know how to use them. By promoting these programs and instructions on how to access them at open enrollment, employees can start engaging with them and benefitting from them sooner.

One way we do this at Collective Health is through our Program Partner Spotlight: We help customers who are aiming to drive specific engagement by creating targeted materials for promotion and education, with everything from educational home mailers to tactile co-branded stress cubes.

2. Enlist the help of team managers and other company leaders to help employees navigate OE.

Create OE support teams who can help tailor materials and re-emphasize communications to employees. Having assigned support for non-English speaking workforces as well as groups that aren’t familiar with the ins and outs of benefits selection is essential to smooth management of the OE process.

To support this effort, Collective Health has developed a “Train the trainer” kit with everything from basic information about how insurance and health plans work to how to explain cost-sharing and a lot more. Benefits teams need all the help they can get every year but this year an expanded ‘village’ is essential to making it all work. We think it’s important to make sure everyone is prepared and ready to help out.

3. Meet people where they are when it comes to communication channels.

Every customer we spoke to last year discussed exploring new communication methods for OE—some had even turned to text messaging to ensure all of their employees were receiving critical health benefits communications. In the new virtual-first environment, some employees feel inundated with email communications and Zoom meeting invites. You can be sure to catch the attention of your broader employee population through a mix of communication channels, including some physical, printed materials mailed to your employees’ homes where other family decision-makers can access information.

At Collective Health we offer expanded printed and premium material options so that people are confident in the Collective Health partnership and what we offer. These materials are intended to instill confidence in members as they walk through their enrollment and empower them to make important decisions for their health and the health of their people.

Whether we at Collective Health are introducing ourselves for the first time, or reminding you about the Member Advocates your employees can count on, we want you to know we are here to connect and support your employees in their healthcare journey.

4. Provide access to a dedicated contact person or team who can answer member questions.

Health benefit options are historically confusing, and it’s critical that employees who feel confused by one or more aspects of their benefits options, don’t feel so overwhelmed that they make choices that aren’t appropriate for their circumstances, or disengage completely. One way to ensure your employees feel supported is to create a dedicated support contact or team who can quickly respond to questions over emails or phone calls.

At Collective Health, we have a dedicated Member Advocate team assigned to all of our new customers for Open Enrollment. Member Advocates are our health benefits experts, who help all Collective Health members find solutions to issues and provide personal support through the member’s preferred communication channel. Member Advocates will help to guide them through their options. They provide information that empowers members to make educated decisions about their healthcare based on their individual and/or family needs.

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