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The Story Of Open Enrollment

A third of employees don’t understand their healthcare coverage. Another third don’t understand their medical bills. There is even a small percentage of employees who are offered employer-sponsored health benefits and elect to opt-out, effectively limiting their access to healthcare. 

How could anyone within the working population see so little value in their benefits offering that they decline it all together? How could such a significant portion have little to no understanding of their coverage? 

Going Down the Employee Benefits Rabbit Hole

These questions should compel us to ask more questions — what percentage of our employee population has at least an average understanding of their benefits? How many among our workforce take full advantage of their benefits? How many actually study, strategize and evaluate them during open enrollment as thoroughly as they might a new car, phone, or computer? 

The answer is not many. 

So how do we change this? How do we demonstrate better value to our employees in such a way that they will respond to it? 

What Employers are Doing to Help Employees Understand Benefits 

Sure, we’re sending our emails out — we’re personalizing them with our employee’s names (i.e. Dear Patty), we’re clearly describing what the email is about (It’s open enrollment season!), we’re creating a sense of urgency (only two weeks left!). We’re incorporating persuasive language (we have several new options to protect your health!) and FOMO (Don't Miss Out!). 

We’ve sent our mailers and we’re directing traffic to the new, easy-to-use portal. We’re sending weekly reminders, communicating, communicating, and communicating some more. We’ve offered access to digital educational resources all year. We’re making it easy for employees to ask questions and receive timely answers. We’re keeping our spirits and energy levels high to manage all of the moving parts. We’re tackling the most stressful time of our year head-on and we’re determined to overcome any and all challenges that dare to come our way. We are on top of our benefits offering.     

And with all of that effort, what do we find? We discover that employees on average spend about 18 minutes enrolling on their benefits selection and typically wait until the end of enrollment to do so. And we’re left scratching our heads, wondering what we could’ve done better. 

That is the story of open enrollment. And it’s somewhat ironic because the thing that the story is missing is an actual story. 

The Importance of Storytelling 

It is well-documented that the best path to engagement is storytelling. Stories are things we live, things we feel, things that remind us that we’re human. And what is more human than protecting our health?  

Instead of relying on simply hard-selling the process to gain and maintain benefits, we need to focus on getting people to care about their benefits. We need to inspire our people. We need to create a vision of health for our workforce, one which is apparent and supported in all aspects of our organization. We need stories. We need testimonials; employees sharing their own stories, sharing their own personal experiences. We need little details from those stories that inspire the senses and draw us in. We need stories that are relatable and compelling. We need stories where we’re nudged into action. 

A good story engages more deeply and strengthens bonds amongst people more effectively than any other medium. A good narrative is worth more than all the statistics in a data warehouse and will compel someone far more effectively than the promise of a few extra dollars. Storytelling is the most compelling way to share your ideas, create community, and engage your employees.

Health Action Council members can access our free online Employee Engagement Tool in our online Member Center. It contains a quick, easy to understand slide presentation entitled You've Got the Power: How to Get the Best Possible Healthcare designed to help employees better understand their benefits and find the right care and the right price.

If you need your login and password to access the Member Center, please email [email protected]

Patty Starr bio image

About the author

Patty Starr

Patty Starr is president and CEO of Health Action Council and is responsible for driving the strategic direction of the organization--build stronger, healthier communities where business can thrive. 

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