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2021 Benefits Open Enrollment: Making the Most of a Virtual World

November 6, 2020
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Open Enrollment

Most of us are getting more than a little tired of the phrase “uncertain times.” Especially when it comes to open enrollment for employee benefits, who wants uncertainty to be the theme? Now, more than ever, it’s important to send clear communications around this important topic.

As we’ve gotten used to living in a virtual world, virtual open enrollment has naturally followed.  

Looking ahead to 2021, now is the time to rethink the way your company communicates benefits information. COVID-19 has paved the way by making most people more comfortable with change and with living on a digital platform. The key is to deliver an open enrollment campaign that includes both on-demand and personalized support. This should include:

  • Virtual Townhalls
  • On-Demand Communication Materials
  • A Virtual Open Enrollment Meeting
  • Simple Informative Videos
  • Personal Consulting and Support

Communication, when strategic and well-thought-out, is an opportunity to build trust. When your employees perceive benefit offerings to be tuned to their individual needs, over 70% of them strongly agree that they’re more likely to be loyal to their employers (The Guardian Workplace Benefits Study, Sixth Annual 2018).

So, how do you achieve this?

Review the Past and Assess the Present

Looking at past open enrollments to consider what worked and what didn’t is a good place to start when planning for 2021, but this year requires new considerations.

  • Are employees working remotely?
  • Do you have workers who will be out on furlough during open enrollment?
  • What are the COVID-19 related benefits issues/changes?

In the current climate, nearly three out of five employees plan on paying more attention to employee benefits (Jellyvision 2020 Employee Views on Personal Finances & Benefits Report). This means your target audience is more open to and in need of support to make informed decisions.

Set Clear Goals and Develop a Theme

These could include:

  • Increasing enrollment in the HSA by 20%.
  • Achieving 90% participation in the wellness plan.
  • Getting 50% of employees already enrolled in an HSA to make plan contributions.

Treat your Open Enrollment communications like a marketing campaign with a recognizable brand that will resonate with your employees and encourage them to engage and commit.

Map Out Your OE Plan and Timeline

Remember that people are procrastinators, with a whopping 41% of elections typically happening during the last third of the Open Enrollment period (2020 PlanSource OE Planning Playbook). Generating a constant stream of communication is essential.

  1. Confirm your Message: Keep it simple.  Choose a theme to generate buzz.
  2. Customize your Message: Know what will resonate with your employees.
  3. Develop Multi-Channel Communications: Get your employees’ attention in creative ways.
  4. Create your OE Timeline: Strive for a “just right” length to avoid loss of interest (too long) or missing out (too short)

Create Your OE Communication Materials

  • Find the right tone: Focus on your employees’ perspective, not yours. Be honest and transparent.
  • Target your message to address employees’ needs: Be clear and concise.  Answer these three simple questions:
    • What do I need to know?
    • What do I need to do?
    • What’s in it for me?
  • Keep it simple: Develop short, frequent messages that focus on one main point at a time.
  • Employ a variety of media to address your range of employees:

OE Chart

Execute Successful OE and Measure Results

Remember that the Benefits cycle shouldn’t go into a dormant stage after Open Enrollment ends. Now is the time to develop a year-round strategy that encourages employees to maximize their investment throughout the remainder of the year.

In this year of change, a well-done virtual Open Enrollment can represent a positive step forward in 2021. Oswald can take the heavy lifting out of this process by providing a full communication campaign that includes all the necessary materials for a successful enrollment. 


Contact us to learn more about our simple solution for digital one-click access to every component of the process. Here’s to 2021 and a virtual OE process that’s easier and more effective than ever.

Mark Beilein
Employee Benefits
267-665-1707
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(Sources: The Guardian Workplace Benefits Study, Sixth Annual 2018, Jellyvision 2020 Employee Views on Personal Finances & Benefits Report, 2020 PlanSource OE Planning Playbook)

Note: This communication is for informational purposes only. Although every reasonable effort is made to present current and accurate information, Oswald makes no guarantees of any kind and cannot be held liable for any outdated or incorrect information. View our communications policy.