In Employee Benefits, Communication is King: 3 Tips for Better Understanding

freshbenies on Oct 13, 2017, 3:00:00 AM
Guest blog content provided to Q4iNetwork Consultants by freshbenies freshbenies-Logo.jpg

 

How often do you hear your employees comment about how easy it is to understand their health benefits? Yeah, me either. Confusion often plays a significant role in that lack of understanding. This is especially true in today’s complex and changing world of benefits. 

Employees are expected to be better healthcare consumers, which means employers are presenting not only a new health insurance plan, but often wellness incentives, consumerism tools, voluntary elections, etc. This can quickly become frustrating for both the employee and the employer. 

How can employers encourage understanding, incentivize use AND make it all easier and less stressful? Here are three tips to consider when developing an employee benefits communication strategy.  

1. Keep it Simple

Personalization is often the key to making a message simple and clear. When describing how a benefit will contribute to an employee’s quality of life, using a relevant story is very effective.

Let’s say you want your employees to use a telehealth option before resorting to a more costly urgent care or emergency room visit. Describing an after-hours scenario where a need is easily met by a phone visit with a doctor makes the point. The employee sees the value of telehealth to provide convenient and speedy access to care with less out of pocket costs. Plus, the employer can explain that avoiding those costly visits reduces health plan costs over the long haul as well. A win-win for everyone. 

TIP: Beware of using health insurance and healthcare jargon that employees don’t understand. Don’t assume your audience knows the common terms – describe them simply (copay, deductible, out-of-pocket max, etc.). Ask an insurance “outsider” to review and red line your communications to ensure they make sense before they go out.

2. Keep it catchy     

Any simple, clear and personal message can be completely overlooked if it doesn’t stand out. So, picture your employees as consumers. They get bombarded with ads, emails, and calendar invites every day. Your message, whether delivered via in-person meetings, company intranet, enrollment site, or email, must be creative and stand out. A benefit may be fantastic and the exact answer an employee needs, but it can easily get overlooked if it looks just like everything else.

Should we expect an employee to understand or use a benefit they haven’t even noticed? Of course not. So give them a reason to pay attention. Try using testimonials or video messages from leadership. Or selecting a vendor that has developed a unique brand and is able to deliver fun and memorable content (i.e. videos, blogs, flyers, etc.). This can save the HR team enormous amounts of time and energy while getting the desired results.

TIP: When you hear fun or positive stories about how employees have used their benefits, ask them to share their experience in a meeting, or for permission to use the story in a benefits communication piece.

3. Keep it consistent

Historically, benefits have been delivered and communicated once a year during open enrollment. Materials are distributed, new benefits are explained, and employees are given enrollment instructions. Typically, that’s the last time employees hear the message until the following year.

Most employees want benefits communications throughout the year. Content messaging and information should be delivered to employees as often as possible without being overwhelming. Include it in the company newsletter or send a simple message from HR. Employees should get used to seeing fun and interesting information in their inbox. Mix it up and make sure it stands out. And always strive to help your employees understand the value of their benefits and how best to use them.     

TIP: Create an communication calendar and stick to it. Start slow and easy with something you know you can accomplish – maybe just one email per quarter. You can work up from there. Also, consider using carriers that have turnkey communication programs.

So what’s the bottom line?

  • Employees are confused about their health benefits.
  • That leads to ineffective use of your employee benefits plan.
  • Simple, catchy content delivered consistently will help employees become smarter consumers of healthcare.

Outstanding benefits without a communication strategy will fall short of expectations. If your team doesn’t understand the value of the program you’re offering or how to use it, it’s a lose-lose situation for you and your employees. 

As an employer, you need to think about your employee benefits broker in this light. Are they a true partner, working with your HR team to establish a clear communication strategy that meets the goals of your benefits program? If not, they should be.

Photo credit RyanMcGuire

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Topics: HR Strategy