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.
Based on the generally low participation levels in high deductible health plans (HDHPs), you might think the plans were invisible to employees. And in some respects, they are.
Although employers describe the HDHP’s features, provide detailed examples of how the plans compare to traditional offerings, offer FAQs, hold meetings and just about hold their employees’ hands, many employees still turn a blind eye and deaf ear to this not-so-new plan design.
So what can an employer do to remove the cloak of invisibility?
Here are some ideas:
It’s easy to get bogged down in details. Keep your message focused on a few key selling points. Make the details available, but don’t bury your main messages.
Describe the “Worst Case” Scenario
One of the key barriers to HDHP adoption is fear of unpredictable costs. Show employees what the maximum exposure would be in a year of high health care use. Of course, you also want to show how much they might save in a year of low or medium use of health care services.
Leadership endorsement of the HDHP and, even more important, personal participation in the plan has a positive impact on employees’ perceptions. Also consider testimonials of HDHP participants themselves. As peers, they carry a high level of credibility among employees and can address issues of concern by describing how they decided to join the HDHP and their personal experience using it.
Connect at Home
Reach out to spouses. Make sure information gets home and spouses are invited to meetings and webinars. Ideally, give spouses access to online decision tools and resources.
Provide Online Tools
Many employees find online plan comparison and cost estimating tools very useful. Not all tools, however, build in tax savings and account growth (if the HDHP is coupled with a Health Savings Account). If not, be sure to highlight these features in other communications.