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Segal Benz August 21, 2018 3 min read

Employees Take Action During Open Enrollment When Benefits Messages Target Their Circumstances

Casting a wide net doesn’t necessarily catch more fish. When it comes to employee benefits communication, targeted messages are critical to getting the right message to the right person at the right time. At no time is this more important than during open enrollment.

You have an incredibly diverse population to engage in the complicated world of benefits. Diverse in terms of age, family situations, motivations, and earnings. Employees want to see this diversity reflected in their benefits options. In fact, 60% say they’re willing to pay more to have a choice of benefits to meet their needs, and 73% say having this customization would increase their loyalty to their employer.1 You can help employees see how benefits fit their unique needs through a more tailored and targeted approach to communication. And you can get more relevant information to them, which helps drive action.

That’s why Targeted Messaging is key #7 of our ebook series, Unlocking Successful Benefits Communication: A 10-Key Framework Every Organization Needs to Get Results.

How a Targeted Open Enrollment Campaign Eased Employees’ Benefits-Plan Anxieties

When a large, prestigious university needed to communicate a significant health plan change, it knew this would require an approach that was different from its standard open enrollment communication strategy. The university hadn’t implemented any changes to its health plans, or the cost and design of those plans, in more than a decade. So the introduction of a new health plan—plus the elimination of 3 existing medical plans—required delicate handling to ensure a smooth transition.

To get ahead of any confusion and angst about changes to benefits, we developed targeted communications that allowed employees to quickly see how their current plan compared to the new offering. The communications highlighted key areas, such as deductibles, premiums, and out-of-pocket maximums.

We mapped out a targeted multimedia campaign (including print, online, and video) that featured specific messages about unique replacement plan options and steered employees toward the plan that most closely matched their current benefits. This helped employees review their choices more easily; at the same time, it nudged them toward the new plan.

We replicated this targeting on the website, in enrollment videos, and at employee meetings—so messages throughout the campaign were consistent and personalized.

Despite the significance of the changes, they were generally well received, and the new health plan strategy met its enrollment goals, with more than 45,000 enrollees.

Science Tells Us Targeted Messaging Works

We apply proven techniques from behavioral economics to our work to drive results for our clients. Here’s the science behind the success of this open enrollment campaign.

Self-relevant information captures our attention disproportionately.2 This is even more true when it comes to our health. By targeting messages on the basis of current plan enrollment, we were able to focus attention on the things that mattered most, based on someone’s personal situation.

Ambiguity bias is one of the largest barriers to comprehension and, therefore, action. It happens when too much of a message is undefined, causing people to take no action because the path forward is unclear. That’s why it’s so important that your communications are direct, clear, and have a call to action. By doing the work for employees—pulling out the cost elements of the health plans they care about most—we took the ambiguity out of the communications and made it easy for them to select the right plan for themselves and their families.

Learn more about the importance of targeting, and read other case studies like this in our ebook series. Targeted messaging is part of Book II: Marketing. Don’t miss the other books in the series, which show you how to build your benefits communication foundation and how to get the right resources in place.

We're proud to work with large employers who recognize the business value of engaging employees in benefits. If you want to learn more, contact us.


1 MetLife 16th Annual U.S. Employee Benefit Trends Study, 2018.

2 G.W. Humphreys and J. Sui, “Attentional control and the self: The Self-Attention Network (SAN),” Cognitive Neuroscience, Vol. 7, 2016.