Benefit plans are a major investment for most employers, yet the offerings included in these plans are often underutilized simply because employees aren’t fully aware of what is available.
A recent survey revealed some interesting statistics:
- Just over 15% of employees surveyed indicated they are “knowledgeable” or “very knowledgeable” about health care reform and the Affordable Care Act’s public exchanges.
- Less than 30% of employees understand when they can make changes to their health plans, including when open enrollment is.
- Almost 78% of employees agree it is at least “somewhat important” for their employer to offer a wellness program; however, nearly 20% of those surveyed don’t know if their company has a wellness program.
- Nearly half of those surveyed believe they have to pay to participate in the company’s wellness programs, such as weight management or smoking cessation.
By improving your benefit plan communication strategy, you can ensure employees understand what is available and ultimately increase smart utilization of benefits you are offering. This article includes some ideas and strategies you can implement right away.
Communicate Throughout the Year
Don’t wait until open enrollment to start telling your employees about all the great features of your health plan. Establish a communication schedule for the year with information that informs and reminds employees about the plan. Frequent communication can also be helpful in motivating employees to participate in your company wellness program.
Incorporate a Variety of Messages
There are a variety of messages you can communicate to your employees throughout the year regarding your benefits plan. Important topics to cover include:
- Outline available benefits
- Promote open enrollment
- Explain plan changes
- Educate on how to use benefits
- Promote consumerism
- Provide answers to frequently-asked questions
- Definitions and clarifications
- Tips for saving on health care costs and prescriptions
- Reminders about cost-free preventive care available under the plan
- Information about voluntary benefits (long-term care, vision, dental, etc.)
Communicate Changes Appropriately
Position any upcoming changes in a positive light by pointing out the good that will come from these changes. Be up front so employees know what to expect. Being honest and open in the beginning can help mitigate a negative response to unpopular changes. The way you communicate will have a big effect on how people perceive the changes.
To avoid miscommunications and ensure consistency in your communications strategy, consider the following:
- Designate specific HR personnel who are responsible for communicating all benefits plan information.
- Encourage supervisors or managers who are asked questions about benefits to refer those questions to HR.
- Make sure communications about the plan are consistent with the official plan documents before distributing (this applies to formal and informal communications).
- Make sure the summary plan document is accurate, up to date, clear, and in agreement with the plan documents, handbooks, and all other benefits information.
- Keep a copy of each communication or disclosure that is distributed to employees.
Establishing a solid communication strategy and being consistent throughout the year in implementing the strategy will improve employee awareness and understanding of your benefits plan. Contact your Leavitt Group insurance advisor to learn more.
Utilize Multi-Media Methods
Using a variety of communication methods can help ensure your message is reaching your employees and keep things from becoming stagnant. You might consider the following:
- Utilize communication tools that are already in place, such as an internal company website or newsletter.
- Trim communication costs by reducing or eliminating the use of traditional print and postal delivery methods and utilize less costly methods, such as your company’s internal website, podcasts, video, and email. Using a variety of tools will also help you to reach your employees more effectively as many of them may have different preferred methods of communication.
- Employ the use of video tutorials or webinars if your employees are spread out geographically, particularly during open enrollment when there is a large amount of information that needs to be communicated.
- Use mass text messaging or short posts on private social media groups to communicate simple reminders about upcoming wellness events or open enrollment deadlines.