Open Enrollment Communication that Engages: Meet Employees Where They Are

September 20, 2021

Open enrollment can sometimes be viewed as an annual procedural “must do”—even when it’s a good thing for employees. Communicators are challenged to figure out how to engage people’s interest and participation, year after year. Last year, this challenge became even greater as we grappled with restrictions imposed by a global pandemic.

Here are our best practices for open enrollment communication in any year, plus some ideas based on how one company tackled that challenge in 2020 – with a helping hand from ROI.

Timeless tips for planning open enrollment communication

This year, some companies are starting to open up their offices to limited onsite work, while others are transitioning to hybrid or virtual work models.  Nonetheless, the year’s “mustn’t miss” benefits activity can still be both fun and informative. Below are some of ROI’s time-tested best practices for open enrollment communication that pretty much always hold true — even during a global pandemic.

Make it personal

Make it personal

Put a face on benefits to give the campaign a human look and feel. Use personal testimonials and firsthand stories told by coworkers.

Reflect the environment

Reflect the environment

Meet employees where they’re at. Whether it’s a fluctuating economy or changing climate, be mindful of current concerns at a global or national level.

Connect with everyone

Connect with everyone

Reflect the diversity of the employee population by including all demographics and people at all stages of life in your communications. Consider how the campaign will affect all levels of the organization.

Put a spotlight on underutilized benefits

Put a spotlight on underutilized benefits

Raise awareness about benefits that may be under people’s radar.

Make open enrollment an event

Make open enrollment an event

Turn Open Enrollment week into a series of events and activities for your employees. Try offering physical fitness challenges or chef-led instructional classes on cooking or nutrition.

Create a brand

Create a brand

Pick a theme that speaks to people and carry it throughout your messaging around benefits all year long.

Learnings from 2020: Adobe gets creative on open enrollment

At Adobe, open enrollment has historically been viewed as more than just an opportunity to inform employees about the new and changing benefits for the coming year. It’s also a chance to showcase the broad range of programs the company offers to support and enrich employees’ physical, mental, emotional and financial wellbeing.

Pre-pandemic, Adobe held onsite Benefits Fairs featuring everything from vendor tables with informative pamphlets and cool giveaways, to food and drinks, to interactive activities and raffle drawings. Employees could speak directly with vendors and Benefits team subject matter experts about their questions.

Then, COVID-19 put the kibosh on everything except virtual ways of sharing information and having fun. Adobe, no stranger to creativity, rose to the occasion. Working closely with the ROI team, they re-envisioned their open enrollment program so employees could still experience it in an enjoyable and meaningful way. Together, we put together a powerful communications strategy aimed at reaching employees in their new work environments. Building on some of our open enrollment Best Practices outlined above, here’s a snapshot of what we did:

Meet the moment

Evolving from the previous year’s theme “It’s Your Life… Live it Up!” we introduced a new theme more in-tune to the current environment: “It’s Your Life… Live it Well.”

Light, simple communications

Rather than onsite posters and digital signage, table tents and desk drops, we focused on easy and fun-to-consume communications that appeared in the company’s digital and social channels.

Adobe 2021 Open Enrollment Email Banner
Open Enrollment Show

Instead of onsite fairs, we worked with the events team to create a virtual “Open Enrollment Show” hosted by a professional comedian; starring well-recognized members of the Benefits team who outlined the “must know” info for the year; and featuring fun segments, including touching benefits “success” stories told firsthand by employees.

Behind the scenes, team members answered real-time questions through chat, as well as a live Q&A session to wrap up. At a time when many people were feeling isolated and alone at home, they clearly welcomed, and enjoyed, the connection.

The Adobe Open Enrollment Show

Interested in learning more about how ROI helped Adobe reimagine its 2021 open enrollment in a year when nothing was normal?

Open enrollment can be an exciting time—an annual opportunity for people to revisit their generous benefits options, reflect on the company that makes them possible, and leave everyone feeling great about their choices. We hope these best practices and ideas from our recent work with Adobe will inspire you.

And should you feel that you still need a hand, give us a call!  We’re here to help you come up with a terrific open enrollment communications strategy that’s just right for your company, culture and people. Contact us here!


Jennie Ivory ROI Internal Communication Agency Employee.
Jennie Ivory

Senior Consultant

As a communications professional who spent years working in the housing industry, Jennie knows that how you communicate is as important as what you communicate – in good times and bad.

Beth Miller Thiel ROI Internal Communication Agency Employee.
Beth Miller Thiel

Vice President, Account Manager

Beth believes that effective communication is more important than ever in the digital age. With over 20 years of experience in senior communication roles across Silicon Valley, she helps companies connect with their teams, customers, and communities through clear and concise writing.