Yes, the year is half over and if you are an HR professional in charge of your company’s employee benefit program, you have already started to think of that horrific time in the business cycle of life called Open Enrollment.  For most companies in the US, that happens in the fall of every year due to the most common group contract renewal date being Jan 1.  And for many HR peeps, it’s sort of like Groundhog Day.  Every year someone says “next year it’s going to be better” but as time rolls around, it’s usually the same set of meetings (now mostly virtual) similar looking materials with the same boring verbiage and not so easy to navigate system enrollment platforms.  Why do we know that the enrollment platforms are not as simple as the salesperson told you they would be?  Because your people still have way too many damn questions!

So let’s start with the obvious.  People don’t read.  You are asking them to read and fill out forms. What’s the problem there?  There are numerous YouTube videos that share with you the why’s!  I find that ironic.  People don’t read because in the real world, they don’t have to.  Everything is in video content or available in some format where they just have to listen. People spend over 11 hours per day with screen time but less than 15 minutes actually reading content.  

So why are you punishing yourself?  If in the world outside of your company, your employees watch content typically rather than read it, then let’s adapt and change the way that benefit meetings and information are held and disseminated.  

Years ago I thought that what if open enrollment could be a video game – like Call of Duty?  Then I know I could get people to play the game and learn something about their health care plans and how to use them.  I even created a game map on how to win and lose – yes because everyone cannot be a winner.  However, I was not successful in getting EA Games in seeing my vision – limited scope they said. 

  1. Hire a professional storyteller.  Yes, they are out there. People learn best by stories (have for centuries) and you can create several short stories to educate your workforce on the areas you need them to focus on.
  2. Use comedy!  Health care is serious and many people don’t want to “deal” with serious topics.  After the last two years of COVID and all of the serious stuff that everyone is coping with today, using a comedy writer to insert some fun into a video or ppt script is an inexpensive and “different” idea.  I use the word different because HR must be willing to try different because “same” isn’t getting you anywhere.
  3. Get rid of the jargon.  I know.  You are waiting for someone else to do it but they won’t.  The insurance companies usually can’t due to legal reasons and brokers, while they support it, don’t seem to pick up the ball and run with it.  For example – the term evidence of insurability.  Well, since people don’t read they stop at evidence.  Isn’t evidence something you find at a crime scene?  Get my point.  Title it – Are You Going to Die Soon? Form (I bet you people will take that quiz).  Or, Can I Be An Extra In the Walking Dead Show?  Yes – the fine print on the form says evidence of insurability but that doesn’t mean we have to call it that.
  4. Use the 3 C’s in communicating – clear, concise, compelling and the ‘s stands for short.  Don’t drone on. 90 seconds is typically the attention span so break it up into a training module of sorts if you have to.   Let people bounce around as they want to consume the material and focus on what they want to learn about.
  5. If you are one of those people that likes to hear themselves talk, don’t host the meeting!   People don’t like you already.
  6. Use video and animation to communicate – put in on your Slack or YouTube channel. 

Along with digitizing all memos and enrollment information (website), you will be much better positioned to deal with your people that don’t read. Oh and don’t call it Open Enrollment.  Change the name to something more appealing.  Something like – Learn More About Your $10,000 bonus (or whatever your organization spends per individual on healthcare)!  When you come at this event from a learning and engagement perspective, using a different lens to help communicate what is so important, then two things happen:  (1) HR looks brilliant and cool and (2) Employees change their opinion of health insurance – even a little – to allow them to be more receptive to learning more about it before they need to use it. 

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