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Five tips for creating effective open enrollment communications during COVID-19

As employers begin preparing for open enrollment during COVID-19, many organizations are facing the unprecedented challenge of how to educate and engage employees with their benefits options from afar. While communication has always been an important component of a successful open enrollment, the ability to effectively communicate with your people this year will be more important – and challenging – than ever.

Here are five communication tips every organization should consider as they build out their 2021 open enrollment strategy in the midst of COVID-19.

  1. Identify and address enrollment logistical challenges now
    During times of uncertainty, it’s not uncommon for organizations to turn to a strategy that has served them well in the past. But don’t underestimate the new logistical challenges that may impact activities that were once turnkey. As you begin to map out your annual enrollment communications, take the time to think through every step in the development and delivery process to anticipate the challenges that may arise, including:
    • ​​Team resources
      With HR and communications teams working overtime to address the continuous workplace disruption caused by COVID-19, will your team have the resources to handle additional communications during annual enrollment? Discuss resource allocation now to avoid bandwidth issues later.
    • Vendor timelines
      Whether they’ve had to reduce staff to accommodate social distancing or have implemented additional safety protocols, many vendors are experiencing production delays. Connect with your external vendors in advance to understand how those delays may impact your timeline.
    • Delivery
      With many employees continuing to work remotely, onsite annual enrollment communication methods may not be effective for your organization this year. Consider replacing traditional onsite channels with alternatives, including direct mail, pre-recorded presentations or digital FAQ sessions, to ensure your people have access to the enrollment information and support that they need no matter where they are.
  2. Reframe your messaging to reflect today’s benefits landscape
    For many employees, benefits utilization in 2020 was likely anything but standard. Between providers putting elective medical and dental care on hold to market volatility impacting 401(k)s, the lack of benefits predictability this year could influence the coverage and contribution decisions that your people make for next year.

    Updating your benefits messaging and decision support tools to proactively address these concerns will go a long way toward putting employees’ minds at ease. By empowering your people with the information and insights they need today to continue making the best benefits decisions for their families, you can help them avoid costly benefits mistakes that may have long-term implications.
  3. Highlight the benefits your people need now
    While your organization likely offers a handful of unique benefits that you would typically put front and center, this may be a good time to expand your focus. In addition to your organization’s differentiators, highlight the programs that your people need right now, including advocacy, wellbeing and work/life resources. Many of these programs are often underutilized, and your people will appreciate the timely reminder of the relevant resources they can take advantage of today. 
  4. Re-think your benefits fair
    Ensuring employees understand their benefits options is a critical first step toward a successful annual enrollment. But whether your employees are returning to the workplace or remaining remote for the foreseeable future, traditional in-person benefits fairs likely aren’t on the schedule for this year.

    To help educate and engage your people while social distancing, consider taking your benefits fair virtual. A digital experience that utilizes tools like videos, webinars or a microsite can connect your people with their 2021 benefits and carrier options and help them prepare to enroll, all while staying physically apart.
  5. Communicate early, often and across channels
    As with any annual enrollment, having a diversified communication strategy is key. Consider utilizing additional channels and mediums this year, including postcards, email or text, to ensure you are reaching your people with the right message at the right time, no matter where they are. By creating multiple touchpoints across a variety of channels, your people will know what to expect before, during and after enrollment.

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