Benefits Enrollment Pitfalls to Avoid

Willis Towers Watson offers some insight on the overlooked communication mistakes that can damage the effectiveness of a strong benefits program.

Open enrollment season is a critical time for any human resources (HR) department. Employers put plenty of effort into developing the right benefits package to meet the needs of their unique work force. But even the best benefits program will fail to reach its full potential if not communicated properly—that is, in such a way that employees will see its value and make the right decisions.

Plan sponsors may encounter a number of obstacles when promoting their benefits program. Willis Towers Watson, therefore, offers insights on the major pitfalls to avoid when developing and running a benefits communication program.

First, HR teams need to make sure their benefits materials will break through the noise of mail, email, spam and other media crying for employees’ attention on a daily basis. One way to do this is to keep information short, crisp and actionable. Employees don’t have time to sift through the intricate details of every benefit, in one sitting, so they shouldn’t be expected to do so. Instead, deliver the most essential information in clear and engaging language so they can quickly recognize what’s important to their specific situation and act on that information, the firm suggests. Employers can then point their workers in the right direction for additional details. This can come in the form of a link or contact information for HR professionals who can then walk workers through the decisionmaking process.

The essential information should be visually attractive, as well. However, it also needs to be consistent across all media to reinforce a familiar brand. This can be as simple as using the company or benefits logo or maintaining the same color, typeface and images across all channels.

Depending on the employee, the medium he finds most engaging will vary. Thus, it is important to take a multi-channel approach. It’s also important to keep emails short and attachments at a minimum. The topic should appear in a newspaper-style headline to catch employees’ attention. Overall, digital communications can be maintained on a microsite or the company intranet.

It is also essential to reinforce the messages and to keep employees in the loop. Some employers make the mistake of communicating benefits during open enrollment season only. A predictable timetable of communications can maintain awareness and reinforce the value in the program. Developing an annual communication schedule can help, the firm says.

For more tips on developing a strong benefits communication program, visit