The volume of communications, details and information thrown at us during open enrollment can be overwhelming.

It is so much easier to check out and keep the same benefits than try to wade through it all. And if we have worked at the company for more than a few years, we often assume we do not need to engage because we know it all already.

That is a mistake. Getting and keeping employees knowledgeable about their benefits is a great retention tool. It is also a regular reminder of the value the company places on them.

Increasing comprehension around what is offered is a great opportunity to address both items. Take these simple steps to improve open enrollment participation among long-term employees.


Unless you are a benefits specialist (and sometimes, even if you are a benefits specialist) open enrollment can be more like tax season than an opportunity to improve our health. We must realize that before we try to convince Janice in accounting that she should attend the open enrollment meeting even though she has worked with the company for ten years.

Many HR teams have added raffles, food and games to the itinerary, which does help. Events held throughout the day enabling employees to address just the topics that appeal to them, help as well. However, finding a way to make it personal has really moved the engagement meter over the past few years.

Specifically, many HR teams are taking to storytelling. They work with the broker and create two or three scenarios that resonate with the tenured employee population. Then they craft the open enrollment announcements, discussions, emails and posters around those scenarios.

For example, one team used retirement healthcare, diabetes care and prevention, and increased prescription costs as the basis for three scenarios. Each scenario described a fictional person, paired with some stock photos, to tell a story about the struggles that person faced and how they discovered benefits they did not know they had or did not understand that helped them through the issue.

Buddy system

Another successful tactic to get long-term employees to attend open enrollment is to partner them with a less-tenured employee. Employees that truly do know the benefits inside and out and thus opt not to participate because they do not need it, are then valued — and feel valued for their extensive, practical knowledge of the plans.

On the contrary, long-term employees who are not engaged and do not have a good understanding of the plans must attend and learn with the newbies. Being paired with someone else who may not know and may ask seemingly stupid questions, can open the way for the tenured employee to be more engaged.

Similarly, some HR teams have taken to having long-term employees speak during open enrollment. In some cases, HR assigns them a topic and provides the information and in others, the employee gets to pick a topic and HR helps them pull together a presentation explaining the basics and how it affects them. In either case, tenured employees are provided the opportunity to shine as de facto leaders within the organization.

The bottom line is, getting all employees engaged in open enrollment is a win for them and the company. Take a few extra steps to engage long-term employees and increase the rates of participation at all levels.