In a tight labor market and an uncertain economy, the season when you have to explain health insurance options to your employees is especially stressful. Helping your employees choose the right health insurance plan can save you a lot of money and avoid future headaches, real and metaphorical.

Remember, choosing a health plan is not always a simple or easy process for your employees. Many people worry that they won't be able to keep their doctor, that customer service will be terrible, or that a lower-cost option won't cover key medical procedures.

Most employers these days still offer a health plan with access to a broad network of health care providers--called a PPO. Hopefully, if you are savvy, you've also considered offering an alternative alongside it that has a more carefully curated network of health care providers chosen for their quality and affordability. This alternative typically will have lower cost-sharing for employees.

So how can you communicate with your employees during the annual enrollment so that they make choices that remain satisfying to them? A handful of techniques can make your communications with employees especially effective. 

1. Require Active Enrollment

Think about it, it's easier to stick with the thing we know and avoid paperwork, even if it is more expensive and poorer quality than the alternative. By making it mandatory for your employees to actively select a health plan instead of defaulting into one, you seize the opportunity to get important information about their options in front of your employees. And people who have the chance to choose for themselves, tend to be more satisfied with it.

2. Make It Easy

Utilize infographics and tables to make it easy for employees to compare health plan options side by side. When you're designing those, don't forget to define key terms associated with your health plan choices--most of us are fuzzy when it comes to health insurance lingo. Don't forget that a picture is worth a thousand words and can be easily shared by email or on your company's social media platform. Furthermore, almost all employees want to know which plans their doctors are covered under. Make it easy for them to determine which providers are in-network before they must decide on a health plan.

3. Utilize Call to Actions

If you think one of the health plans you offer is better for employees and the company, don't shy away from saying so. Have a strong opinion! Guide your employees to the higher-quality, lower-cost option by utilizing leadership or other staff testimonials. Testimonials and personal stories should be used wherever possible to make your communications relatable and compelling. Try filming some of your employees talking about their choices. Video clips of peers will easily capture the attention of your employees while informing them.

4. Know What Matters

Asking for feedback before, during, and after your annual enrollment period is key to understanding whether your communications strategy is taking hold or not. It can also inform you in real time where to shift focus. Test your assumptions about what you think will motivate employees to enroll in the best health plan with a small number of employees in advance. You can also target your messages, addressing the questions and concerns of different segments of your employee population rather than a one-size-fits-all approach.

5. Be Prepared

There's nothing like implementing a brilliant communications strategy, only to be caught flat-footed when the questions start rolling in. Be prepared. If you've caught the attention of your employees, they are going to ask questions before they take the plunge, so get your HR staff or other leadership ready. Put together a one-pager of "top five questions asked" or "top five concerns" with counterpoints for reference. Hand these out before open enrollment to key staff so they are ready for a potential deluge!

You've gone through the hard work of designing or selecting health insurance plans. Put some additional effort into communications about them and your employees will be more satisfied with their decisions when they enroll, and satisfied throughout the year.