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How to Onboard: Skip the Drawing Board, Repurpose Open Enrollment Benefits Communications for New Hires

Lauryn Nosek

Lauryn Nosek

Open enrollment is a stressful and exhausting time but the light at the end of the tunnel is getting closer. You might not want to hurry into the light just yet, though. While the details of employee benefits are still fresh in your mind, it’s a great time to review your onboarding materials and communications. While most information is the same, the approach to communicating it is different. Organizing and prioritizing that information is daunting but starting with employee benefits now will give you a solid foundation upon which to build the rest of your new-hire communications and, in many ways, that’s the toughest part. First thing to do is take off the seasoned-employee open enrollment goggles and look at what you have through the eyes of a recent recruit. What information is specific to open enrollment and what applies to new employees too?

Cut What You Don’t Need

• Open Enrollment Dates – An obvious cut is the specific window for open enrollment.

• What’s New, What’s Changed – You won’t need information on changes from last year’s offerings or which programs are new additions. They won’t be newer than these employees.

• Check Dates and Deadlines – Deadlines for incentives like those associated with wellness programs need to be adjusted or cut. Some, like monthly premium reductions for completing a biometric screening, might still apply but the language may need tweaking.

• How to Enroll – Do you use a benefits portal for open enrollment? Current employees already have accounts and only need a refresher on logging in and navigation, while newcomers will need more instruction.

Add and Expand in Other Relevant Areas

In the case of new hires, you’re more likely to have areas of your employee benefits communications to expand rather than cut.

• General Education – Always assume newbies need more education. Don’t rely on giving just the specifics of plan options—those are pretty intimidating on their own. Provide overviews and definitions if you can. There’s no universal level of prior knowledge, so you can’t assume they know how HDHPs work or what the differences are between FSAs and HSAs. Millennials make up a growing portion of the workforce and many have little experience with the world of benefits. They’re looking for clear and thorough communications that go beyond benefits guides.

• How to Enroll – New hires need to enroll in healthcare plans and voluntary benefits from start to finish. Your job here should be simple if tedious. In addition to step-by-step instructions, you could provide an FAQ sheet answering questions like: Is there additional paperwork they need to fill out? How long will processing their enrollment take and how does that affect when they can begin accessing their benefits?

• Resources – Resources are one thing where almost everything from your open enrollment communications can carry over for new employees. All those benefits guides, links to the enrollment portals, and contact lists will need only minimal changes. But there’s probably other information you need from these employees that can easily be rolled into benefits communications, like forms for emergency contact information and other medical conditions like allergies. They’ll appreciate dealing with all their medical information at once.

Over the coming months, we’ll be looking at the many considerations that go into new hire communications in this How to Onboard article series. We’ll continue with a look at what to do with your repurposed employee benefits messaging in the next installment, so stay tuned for that.

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