By, Lindsay Johnson, Founder of FitPros
It’s that time of year when many companies are preparing to kick off open enrollment for their employees to choose their workplace benefits. With the danger of a virus lurking among us and the unknowns about returning to work, how can HR professionals best communicate with employees about their choices? With most companies still working virtually, our family obligations are more challenging with homeschool, and our patience for video conference meetings running dry the job of an HR Manager is put to the test.
While it’s still possible for employees to participate in in-person enrollment meetings with social distancing measures in place, it’s more likely that businesses will need to host virtual enrollment meetings via video calls. Additionally, the traditional paper process will need to go digital, which brings with it the need to focus on a business’s information security capabilities. As if there wasn’t enough on an HR Managers plate before COVID-19!
We won’t tackle all of those headaches in this article, but we will address a few pain points that can make the 2020 Open Enrollment season less stressful for your company and easier for your employees to understand and engage. Read on for more information.
Create optimal balance between high-touch and high-tech to explain benefits
Everyone understands and digests information differently, thus the most effective benefit communication campaigns are multimedia. Some employees, typically the Baby Boomer generation, seek a human touch in how they learn and make decisions about their benefit choices. Whereas other employee populations prefer to learn from technology and just know that HR is available to answer questions as needed. To achieve the optimal balance experts recommend employing a variety of technologies to deliver customized messages to employees - a few examples include:
Benefits/ Wellbeing Portal
A series of short videos
Concise emails with limited attachments
Physical materials mailed to their home
Like many of you, FitPros had to basically reinvent our service offerings in 2020. Although we’ve always had a virtual component of our business for remote employees we were primarily an on-site, in-office wellness service provider prior to COVID-19. After listening to our clients' pain-points to engage and support employees we quickly transitioned our services virtually, and launched two new products - Care Packages and Wellbeing Portals. The Wellbeing Portal concept is being used by both companies that already have an internal benefits site and those that do not have a central place where employees can find resources and updates on wellness activities.
If you have your own intranet or want to learn more about FitPros here are a few things to include:
Schedule of carrier sessions, internal announcements, and wellness activities
On-demand videos - recordings of benefits, fitness class, educational workshops, etc.
Articles and resources to mentally, physically, financial, emotionally and professional support employees
Optional “Store” where they can purchase items to enhance their WFH set up, and branded items with your company’s logo
Another highly useful form of communication is via a series of compelling videos to explain benefit updates. A 2017 study of employee benefits video response rates conducted by Flimp Media found that:
78% of 173,000+ employees who received a video email "postcard" related to benefits viewed the video at least once.
94% of the employees who viewed a video took some action after doing so, including logging into the online enrollment software and accessing benefits information.
Simply creating one video or a series does not guarantee this level of response and activity, hence why a multi-touch strategy is imperative, especially in the virtual world we’re now living in. The good news is that employees tend to be motivated when it comes to learning about their benefits. Video is great for explaining complex topics, but you must be able to deliver a lot of information in a short period of time, two to three minutes. In addition, adding humor and making the information relatable with anecdotes versus loaded with data or benefits speak will go a long way to keep your staff’s interest.
Keep in mind that even the most effective video cannot communicate everything an employee needs to know, so make sure the video is backed up by supplemental communications that offers information consistent with what the video presented. This is another reason why a Portal is relevant. All of the benefits information can be linked in one easy to locate and comprehensive location. Often we hear that employees rarely visit a company’s intranet because the content is boring and buried. Having your Wellness Portal separate, but linked to your internal site can help highlight new and exciting things that you're offering to employees.
For privacy we won’t link videos that we’ve produced for other companies, but below are a few examples of simple videos we’ve made to communicate a message, and a link that demos a Wellbeing Portal that FitPros can create for you (it’s 13 minutes, so grab your popcorn :)
Incorporate fun with education to engage employees
At first some we’re pumped about the idea of working remotely. No more early wake up just to rush out the door then sit on a bus or in traffic. That sounded fantastic! Then many of us learned that working from your bed isn’t all that comfortable, we’re spending more money on groceries, and if you have kids, phew, I won’t even get started on how many adjustments needed to be made. Above all of these the obstacle that’s been the most detrimental is loneliness. In fact, SocialPro reports that 34% of millennials always or often feel more lonely because of the coronavirus situation, compared to 20% of Baby Boomers. In either situation many HR leaders feel a sense of responsibility to support their teams and look to their benefits carrier or a Google search for ideas.
In May of 2020 I presented at a virtual conference on this very topic on how leaders can cultivate a culture of belonging. HERE is the replay if you’d like to check it out.
It wasn’t long after our client’s closed their offices and we started living in a socially distanced world that the FitPros team realized that we needed to do more than just take our classes virtual. Yes, fitness classes and educational workshops are excellent and should be a component of a balanced wellness initiative, but now that employees can’t come into the office and bond with each other while passing in the hall or playing a game they need a special touch from their employer letting them know they are valued.
It was April of 2020 that the FitPros Care Package was born. Designed to promote holistic health and community engagement in this time of uncertainty and social distancing, each shipment includes tools and resources needed for teams to stay engaged in their work and connected to their colleagues. Corporate cultures are really struggling with the absence of the micro-social, face-time interactions that we’re all used to having in the hallways, in the cafeteria at lunch, and the happy hours at the end of the day. The aggregate of these small interactions is the foundation of a company’s culture, where employees bond and develop social empathy. That’s what creates a cohesive team environment.
You can totally do the work to source boxes, items to put in the boxes, how to ship them and pack them for your company, but if you’d like to save some time we’ve already done the work! Aside from just getting a neat gift below I’ve listed some of the virtual activities that we can do to pair with items you put in the box:
Bonsai Grow Kit Stress → Management Health Talk
Trigger Point Ball → Self Massage Stretch Class
Live Starter Tree → Emergency Preparedness
Branded Exercise Band → Fitness Class
Paint Set → Art Therapy Workshop
Candle → Meditation
Effective communication campaigns are year-round, not limited to open enrollment
Each year FitPros gets an influx of inquiries from companies who want to make their Open Enrollment season extra special. Some of these companies offer activities throughout the year, and some like to test ideas around OE to see what employees gravitate to. 2020 is no different - even though we were nervous that it might be the months leading up!
Although every company we work with around the world is going virtual for their fall Open Enrollment this year, we are grateful to see that employers are still investing in the wellbeing of their employees. In fact, we’re hearing from many who are interested in new ways to impact their employees given how much stress they are under now working from home. And, they are spending more to do so! Many companies shared that they are saving money not buying meals, snacks and other on-site events which makes sending care packages and offering virtual activities a no brainer.
Open Enrollment is that special once a year event when employees get to re-evaluate their benefits, and they learn what changes your company decides to make with its offerings. Yes, you definitely want to raise awareness around this time of year, but as companies with low turnover and low insurance claims will tell you, it’s long-term, integrated and consistent wellness program planning that is sustainable and impactful. Here are some imperative things to consider:
Get your executive leadership on board with your wellness proposal. Conduct a survey or a brief interview with leadership to see how to best create a culture of wellness. Find commonalities between the company’s mission and its wellness beliefs, and then assign top level leaders a role.
Survey Employees. Learn what they are interested in and when it’s convenient to participate. Ask them how they define wellness and how your company can support their lifestyle. Often we hear employers assume that the majority of employees want yoga or they are stressed out, but they are usually guessing or they hear that from the few vocal people. It’s the non-vocal people that surveying really helps you learn about their paint points, and the vocal people will be your cheerleaders.
Start slow, but steady. When you start scheduling activities, such as fitness classes, educational talks, and social engagement, be consistent with the plan. If you have a limited budget then just do one thing a month, but have it be on the same day of the week. For example, Wellness Wednesday or Fitness Friday the second week of each month. As engagement gains momentum add more classes. By adding more variety you have a greater chance of meeting the needs of your population.
Get Feedback, Tweak, and Repeat through surveys and analytics. Technology has made it easier to measure fitness parameters and this information can be used anonymously to measure how well the program is doing. We are always learning new ways to improve upon our own fitness endeavors, and a wellness program should be operated in the same fashion. Success should be obtained through a fluid, progress-based program, and employee involvement in shaping the wellness program will be much appreciated by them, and therefore engender better accountability.
Encourage leadership to personalize the wellness program by acting as a friendly resource, not as a gatekeeper. Employees do not like being measured in numbers, nor like being told what to do. One way is to ask employees why they want to make health improvements (you’ll get answers like “for my family” and “my mom had diabetes”) instead of requiring them to submit specific biometric goals -- allowing employees to measure their own individualized or non-judgmental parameter of wellness.
Nominate wellness champions (FitPros calls this program Wellness Warrior). Another successful concept is to select one person in every department of your company to meet once a month. At this monthly meet-up, the group will brainstorm ways to spread the wellness word and get their colleagues active. Small incentives such as offering complimentary massages or classes at a nearby studio/gym could incite participation. An idea for employee entry is to write a brief explanation about his or her proudest health accomplishment, what they want to achieve, and why they want to be part of the Wellness Ambassador program.
In closing, to achieve the optimal balance in your Open Enrollment messaging it is suggested that you employ a variety of technologies to communicate with employees. We all learn differently. Creative videos can really catch their attention when it’s a series of shorts that are to the point, and you can not go wrong with smart humor combined with information they will find useful.
Remote work can get lonely. If your employees are all working separately and rarely get a chance to communicate with their teammates (or anyone else, for that matter), they may be less engaged at work. They may also experience lower levels of job satisfaction, which can lead to you having to replace people on your team more often than you’d like. FitPros Care Packages are designed to excite employees with a gift when they receive it to their home, and the items inside can be paired with a virtual activity to bring people together for non-work, fun activities that give teams a way to continue having shared experiences, to feel engaged in the company culture, and to continue being invested in each other’s lives, despite now all being remote.
Lastly, integrating social, physical, emotional, financial and professional based activities throughout the year instead of only during OE season will make a greater and more positive impact on the health of your employees, and your bottom line. You don’t have to take our word on it, just talk to companies that have low employee turnover and low insurance claims. Long-term, integrated and consistent wellness program planning will make the greatest impact.
Talk to a FitPros Wellbeing Manager to learn how to make this year’s Open Enrollment season engage your employees while providing them with virtual and tangible tools that remind them why they appreciate working for your company because they feel valued and connected with their colleagues and your mission.
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