A recent MetLife survey found that only 42 percent of employers are very satisfied with the levels of engagement during their annual open enrollment events. And it’s no wonder, with survey results also showing that up to one-third of employees missed the enrollment deadline, failed to participate in the event or simply defaulted to their previous year’s enrollment options.
With benefits satisfaction so closely linked to job satisfaction, it’s critically important that you as an employer take the time to both offer an attractive benefits package and engage employees through the enrollment process. By doing so, you’ll not only improve benefits participation, but you’ll help build and maintain the quality workforce that your company needs to grow and compete.
Here are some important ways you can improve the open enrollment experience at your company.
1. Simplify the Process
If you want employees to take advantage of your benefits package, you need to streamline the enrollment process and provide materials that are straightforward and easy to understand. Another key to engaging employees, is providing enrollment materials that are personalized to address generational differences. According to the MetLife survey, 74 percent of survey respondents said they appreciated personalized materials that spoke to their unique needs and concerns.
2. Get Online
Online enrollment has become a popular request – particularly among those who have grown to appreciate the ease and convenience of online shopping. According to the MetLife survey, almost 50 percent of respondents preferred online enrollment, with employees more likely to engage in the enrollment process if online enrollment was both available and on par with the online shopping experiences they’ve grown used to. Also important are online decision-making tools to help them determine which benefits most clearly reflect their needs.
3. Communicate Cleary, Communicate Often
To keep employees engaged, enrollment materials must be clear, easy to understand and free of insurance jargon. You’ll also want to clearly outline any major policy changes – particularly if they come at an additional cost to your employees. Then, once open enrollment ends, keep the conversation going throughout the year, as there is a direct link between frequency of benefits communications and employee engagement. These materials can take the form of a newsletter, blog or email newsletter campaign and should present information on upcoming issues, such as health care reform.
4. Get Feedback
According to survey results, 42 percent of employees who reported being engaged in their annual open enrollment event were asked to give feedback on both their employer’s benefits plans and the overall enrollment experience. Of those who weren’t asked to give feedback, only 17 percent were engaged in the enrollment process. By talking to employees and asking them for their opinions, you’ll be able to better design an experience that reflects their overall needs and preferences.
With key pieces of the Affordable Care Act taking effect in 2014, it’s becoming increasingly important to provide employees with clear, easy to digest benefits materials. When done correctly, these materials will answer your employees’ questions, dispel any misconceptions and keep them engaged—both during open enrollment season and all year long.
As an employer, you understand the importance of providing a comprehensive benefits package to your employees. But if your HR communications aren’t driving home the value of these benefits in a way your employees understand, you’re missing the mark.
Right now, job satisfaction is at near record lows, with a recent Gallup Poll finding that 70 percent of Americans are dissatisfied at work. Moreover, a recent industry survey found that the perception of financial security is dropping, with 11 percent fewer people viewing themselves as financially secure as did two years ago.
Now consider this: the overall job satisfaction and feelings of financial security felt by your employees is directly related to their benefits education. In fact, that same industry survey found that for employees who considered their benefits education to be very good or excellent, 82 percent were highly satisfied at work. For those who were unsatisfied with their benefits education, that figure dropped to 26 percent.
The takeaway here, is that by overcoming common HR communications challenges and improving the way you present benefits information to your employees, you can help improve satisfaction, loyalty and productivity in the workplace.
Overcoming Common Challenges
One of the key mistakes employers make in providing benefits education to their employees is assuming that employees are receiving and understanding the value of their voluntary benefits plans. When polled, 40 percent of employees who were offered disability insurance reported that they felt uncomfortable making an informed decision about their enrollment options because they didn’t receive adequate educational materials describing the coverage. Yet, these benefits are very important to employees, with 82 percent of survey respondents putting a higher premium on voluntary benefits since the recession.
To get the biggest ROI for your employee benefits, consider the following tips:
1. Appeal to your employees’ individual learning styles by providing educational materials in a variety of formats. Employees appreciate having access to materials in various formats and many will use a combination of the resources you provide. Between printed brochures, informational videos, worksheets and interactive tools, you’ll make it easy for employees to choose the resources that help them best understand the value of their benefits options.
2. Create personalized communications materials that speak directly to your employees – no matter what stage of life they’re in. Targeted messages will resonate much more deeply with your employees, particularly among those in the 18-34 age range, who may have a difficult time understanding the value of enrolling in a benefits plan.
3. Don’t wait until open enrollment to educate employees about their benefits options. Make benefits education a year-round discussion by providing educational resources to your employees at least twice a year. This will help emphasize the value and importance of these plans, while giving employees plenty of time to consider the options that work best for their needs.
4. Give them time to review and understand the materials you provide. The industry survey found that employees who had at least three weeks to review and digest their benefits materials were much more satisfied with their benefits education as a whole. By providing employees with a minimum of three weeks to review benefits information, you give them time to ask questions, discuss enrollment options with family, conduct independent research or attend an informational meeting.
5. Provide a clear explanation of benefit so employees understand the value of the plan, the benefits they’ll receive and when to sign up.
As health care reform takes effect, it’s becoming even more important for employers to improve their benefits communications strategy. Employees will have questions about aspects of the Affordable Care Act and how it affects them and their benefits plans. Make sure you have the information they need by planning now.
Start Planning Your Communications Now.
This is going to be a year of change and challenges—in other words, 2013 will be just like every other year, only more so!
Now is the time to take a bird’s eye view of your HR communication challenges and goals for the year, then to make a plan that will address to.
Start with a review of your HR communication efforts and outcomes in 2012. Learn what you can from what worked well and not so well, then move on to 2013 planning.
Create a timeline of key communication events and activities. Focus first on the core communications that you can anticipate from year-to-year. Then add in communications around upcoming changes or one-off projects. With this high-level overview, you can plan for resource needs, identify “hot spots” when several topics need to be communicated at the same time and begin to determine key messages that need to be aligned across the communications.
After that, you can start your detailed planning.
We can help! Partner with Custom Communications to craft a comprehensive, winning communication strategy. We can help you avoid pitfalls, anticipate timing and costs, and create a content platform to incorporate the right messages in all of your upcoming communications.
As we all know, health care reform is introducing many changes. And, we are all acutely aware that many of these changes are complex and numerous questions unanswered. If we are feeling a high level of uncertainty, how must employees be feeling?
This is an opportunity for you to demonstrate that you and your employees are all in this together and that you are going to support and guide them through these changes. As employees continue to be concerned about the economy, their jobs and their futures, proactively communicating about issues of importance to employees can help you alleviate their fears, build connection and ultimate better engage your workforce.
One immediate issue is changes in Medicare payroll taxes, which took effect January 1, 2013. Here are some key points to convey in your communications:
Payroll Tax Increase on Earned Income
Earned income includes wages and tips.
New Tax on Net Investment Income
Take advantage of this communication opportunity to build a positive connection with your employees.
Communication is key to keeping your employees engaged and productive. According to a recent Research Now survey, two of the top three challenges HR faces today are increasing worker productivity and retaining employees (the first being managing health care costs).
With the uncertain impact of Health Care Reform, continued slow economic growth, the general decline of employee loyalty and other factors, keeping employees job-focused and energized—rather than looking for greener pastures at another company—is more difficult to do, but critically important for organizations to achieve their goals.
Through communication, you can increase employees’ sense of well-being and value, while reducing personal concerns about health care costs, ability to retire and financial stability. The high level message to your employees is that your organization is committed to providing a competitive level of financial security through your benefits programs. To support this statement, you need to ensure that employees know what benefits they have, how those benefits work and ways employees can maximize their value.
There is plenty of opportunity to enhance benefits communication, according to the Research Now survey. Only 38% of employee respondents believe that HR communicates effectively about benefits, and 45% said that HR does not communicate enough about benefits.
Also, keep this figure in mind: 44% of employees surveyed said a well-communicated benefits program would make them less likely to leave their organization.
So be sure to consider the cost of recruiting, training and lost productivity when making decisions about your investment in benefit communications.
December is a rotten time to try to communicate just about any message to employees. Everyone is trying to wrap things up (pun intended) before year end, attend holiday festivities, plan family meals, make travel arrangements, you name it. In other words, people are maxed out and unavailable to take in messages longer than a few words or sentences.
But from a wellness perspective, the holidays present a myriad of health challenges. So how can you gain employees’ attention long enough to help them enjoy the holidays more safely and healthfully?
It can be done, if you approach your communication simply, using short messages delivered in creative ways. Consider wrapping your wellness message into a holiday postcard, a series of tweets or online posts. You can involve employees in the process by providing a venue to share their ideas for a healthy holiday season via social media channels. Here are a few ideas for content:
• Tips to manage holiday stress
• Healthy holiday recipes
• Realistic ideas to avoid over eating
• Reminder not to drink and drive
You can go to your health carrier’s website for ideas. Repurpose their communications to fit your holiday message, keeping it short and simple. Less is more!
Be sure your message is personal and about making your employees’ holidays safe and enjoyable.