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6 Essential Learning Lessons from Last Year’s Open Enrollment

Ross Simons

Ross Simons

Director of Inbound Marketing
five learning lessons from last years open enrollment

The kids are heading back to school, the days are getting ever so slightly cooler, and, believe it or not, pumpkin spice products are starting to reappear on coffee shop menus.

For most people, these changes herald the end of summer and the coming of fall. For HR professionals, they mean the most hectic time of year is right around the corner: open enrollment season.

With open enrollment 2022-23 fast approaching, the timing is right to revisit last year’s open enrollment period. What lessons can you apply to create a smoother, lower-stress enrollment process for your HR team and your company’s employees? (That means employees making better-informed decisions and you wasting less time answering the same questions.)

The Answers Are in the Numbers

Here at Flimp, we’re sitting on a treasure trove of data from last year’s enrollment season, sure to contain plenty of actionable insights. During open enrollment 2022-23, we:

  • Helped 212 employers conduct benefits communication campaigns
  • Targeted 704,958 employees through those campaigns
  • Enabled 569,900 employee actions
  • Shared 897 videos, which combined for 325,408 views

We’ve spent the past year combing through all this data, and we released our findings in our complete 2021-22 Open Enrollment Case Study and Trends Report. The full report includes benchmarks across nine industries (including construction, healthcare, and education), the anatomy of a high-performing open enrollment communications campaign, and overall campaign statistics.

We think you’ll get a lot out of reading the entire report, but if you’re strapped for time (and who isn’t these days), here are our six key takeaways from open enrollment season 2021-22:

1. Decision-Support Tools Boost Engagement

Our 2021-22 data makes clear that open enrollment communication campaigns featuring decision-support tools show higher-than-average engagement.

While the average engagement rate across all the campaigns we helped with was 72%, the engagement rate for those using decision-support tools was 77%. The engagement rate was even higher when the decision-support tools were embedded in places like corporate intranets.

For employees, decision-support tools can eliminate most of the frustration, confusion, and time commitment that goes into researching and choosing benefits. The best of these tools offer the intuitive self-service experiences we’re all used to from shopping online.

PLANselect by Flimp, for example, collects key information from employees with a brief questionnaire and recommends plans using a predictive algorithm that taps into the power of over 200 million data points in our claimant database. The entire process can be completed in less than five minutes.

Decision support does more than increase engagement, however. Our data shows that the right decision-support tool will help employees make better choices — for their needs and for your company. We’ve found that you can successfully migrate 15% to 25% of your employee population to an HDHP with a decision-support tool.

2. Focused Messages Succeed

Before you hit “send” on that massive email outlining all your company’s benefit options for the coming year, consider this: Employers that sent more messages but with less text saw better results during open enrollment 2021-22.

Shorter, focused email messages are less intimidating and help employees digest information by breaking it down into relevant, bite-sized chunks.

Your emails should include essential points (such as enrollment deadlines and portal access instructions). Supplemental information (such as benefits tips, explainer videos, and information around voluntary benefits) can be split across a longer or even year-round communications effort.

Based on our open enrollment data analysis, we recommend sending at least three emails: one before open enrollment, another at the kickoff to open enrollment, and one a few days before the deadline.

3. Digital Technology Tailors Experiences

Human resources professionals have struggled mightily for years to provide more personalized help to employees making open enrollment decisions. But, in most cases, it’s simply impossible to meet one on one with each employee.

As many of the employers we worked with during open enrollment 2021-22 discovered, the latest digital technology lets HR teams tailor messaging by employee segment (such as location, union status, and full time vs. part time) or interests (such as retirement planning and supplemental benefits).

Digital Postcards and other personalized digital content can be customized with unique messaging, replicating the experience and advantages of one-on-one communication.

4. Expanded Offerings Call for Expanded Communication Resources

Employers had to get creative with their benefits during the COVID-19 pandemic, expanding into offerings such as telehealth, wellness, and hospital-indemnity coverage. Promoting these new and sometimes confusing offerings requires a creative approach, as well.

The most effective communicators during the 2021-22 season went beyond basic email to offer visually compelling video and interactive content. Almost half of the 2022 campaigns featured more than two videos, including short explainer videos and in-depth presentation videos that more closely reflected the details of benefits guides.

(The average enrollment introduction video was about 2 1/2 minutes long, while the average benefits explainer video was about 15 1/2 minutes.)

5. Mobile Makes a Measurable Difference

How do you reach employees like retail or construction workers who are not always in front of computers? Try mobile-friendly outreach. We saw above-average mobile views in those industries (for example, 21% among retail and consumer product employees).

Effective mobile strategies from the 2021-22 open enrollment period included:

6. Passive Enrollment ≠ Low Engagement (Necessarily)

Engagement will always be higher during active enrollment years, but that doesn’t mean it has to be non-existent during passive years. In fact, passive enrollment cycles can be excellent opportunities to improve benefits awareness and satisfaction.

We saw passive enrollment campaigns get over 60% engagement using many of the digital tools and communication techniques we described above.

If you have an active enrollment season coming up, it’s critical that you get the word out. During the 2021-22 season, campaigns that specified it was an active-enrollment period (using Digital Postcards or within featured video content) saw 33% higher engagement rates than those that were explicitly passive or that failed to differentiate between passive and active.

The Insights You Need for a Low-Stress Open Enrollment Period

The next open enrollment season will be here before you know it. Fortunately, there’s still time to optimize your communication strategy to build on last year’s successes. Get the complete 2021-22 Open Enrollment Case Study and Trends Report here.

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