This year’s open enrollment season will look a bit different than previous years. A majority of employed Americans are now working from home and even more, workers are concerned about the possibility of pandemic-driven health and financial stress. Now more than ever, a well-rounded benefits offering communicates to employees that their employer is invested in not only their overall health but their future.

Benefits contribute to attracting and retaining talent — 58% of employees would rather negotiate for a stronger benefits package than a higher salary. Benefits also improve the company’s bottom line because healthier employees mean reduced healthcare costs and give employees peace of mind so they can spend more time bringing their best selves to work every day.

As we approach the uncharted 2020 open enrollment season, here are three tips to help HR teams reach and engage more with employees.

 Establish a regular benefits communication strategy
Most employers only communicate about benefits a few times throughout the year, including during open enrollment, onboarding, or a qualifying event. More regular communications on employee benefits should be table stakes for any business’ benefits program.

In the world of HR, there’s a stigma around how sending numerous emails or “touchpoints” to employees can be seen as spamming. In fact, employer communications policies typically discourage a more regular cadence of messages to employees and as a result, employees are less informed about and do not take full advantage of their benefit plans. But the truth is, the occasional 1-2 emails is not enough.

HR teams should view communicating with employees not as an intrusion but as a way to engage with and more importantly, to educate them. The goal of benefits communication should not stop at simply informing the workplace of available benefits. It is up to the HR team to provide information so that employees understand the breadth of benefits available, how those benefits can support their lifestyles, and how to utilize those benefits in a way that optimizes the impact on the employee’s medical and financial wellbeing. Engaging in a personalized way provides the encouragement and support employees need to choose benefits that can have an impact on their lives inside and outside of the office.
 Take a digital approach
Mass emails are a great way to connect with the employee base, but without personalization, it can be easily ignored and defeat the purpose of education and engagement. Thanks to the progress of HR technology, benefits communication today can be personalized for each employee based on their needs and preferences without adding administrative burden to HR representatives. But this is just a start.

With so many working from home, HR professionals need a digital strategy to meet employees where (and when) they work. As more employees turn to online avenues, having an HR technology platform where they can learn about and choose the benefits will not only increase open enrollment numbers but will also equip employees with the resource needed to make well-informed decisions for the upcoming year. Benefits communication is not an easy task. Many HR professionals have started work with partner companies that can take that burden off their plates so they can focus on other HR priorities.

Arming employees with enough information to make informed decisions about their benefits requires best-practice communication strategies and the right technology resource.
 Voluntary benefits are essential, not just optional
Too many employees fail to understand the benefits offered and therefore don’t take advantage of them. This is problematic in a number of ways. Voluntary benefits, which are benefits outside of the core medical, dental, and vision coverage, like pet insurance, identity theft, or student loan assistance, can be the key to offsetting copays, deductibles, student loans, and unexpected expenses. Since the onset of COVID-19, employees are increasingly seeing these benefits as “must-haves” instead of “add-ons” as they have been traditionally known.

Employee wellness, for example, has been a trending topic of discussion in recent months. One way to provide employee wellness options, that are personalized specifically for a particular individual, is to offer a wide array of voluntary benefits. Employees can choose what’s best for them (and their family) as a way to supplement their core benefits and truly prepare for potential challenges. In today’s world, there is no such thing as over-preparing for a crisis. Benefits can be part of that preparation strategy.