Creating Empowering Benefits Communication Beyond Open Enrollment
With open enrollment now a distant memory for most employees, it is time to revisit your employee benefits communication plan. Taking a year-round communication approach ensures your employees are aware of and utilizing the entirety of your benefit offerings. Engaging with employees in this manner lets them see the value of their total compensation and can encourage them to use tools like telemedicine.
Ask, Then Create
Survey your employees to learn how satisfied they are with their benefits, if they know how to locate benefit information, if they feel confident trying telemedicine for the first time, how they like to learn, preferred method of communication and what they do and do not understand.
Then, use data to check into your low and high usage areas of your benefits plan. Employees may not understand the value of certain areas of your benefits offerings or how to use them in their own lives.
From there, leverage the results to tailor your annual benefits communication plan directly to your employee base. Address their concerns and equip them with the necessary information to make thoughtful decisions about their health.
Benefits Communication Plans Beyond Open Enrollment
After identifying education opportunities or pain points from the survey, create a benefits communication plan. To start, identify a goal and define key communication objectives. In the current COVID-19 environment, many employers are focusing on telemedicine, mental health and educating on health plan basics.
We have provided three example communication objectives and topics below:
- Example objective: Increase telemedicine usage in 2022 vs. 2021.
- Examples of Communication Topics: Provider’s details, how to access it, general costs and what is covered.
- Rationale: Nearly 6 in 10 people (58 percent) are willing to try telemedicine for the first time if they have the option. This is a 25 percent increase from two years ago when only 46 percent of people were willing to try telemedicine.
- Source: Will Coronavirus be the Tipping Point for Telemedicine? by Ipsos
- Example objective: Clearly lay out mental health resources available.
- Examples of Communication Topics: Highlight mental health resources, what is covered by insurance, how to find a mental health resource in-network and any other options available with your plan.
- Rationale: Nearly half (45 percent) of adults in the United States
reported COVID-19 has negatively impacted their mental health due to worry and stress.
- Source: Mental Health Trends in America Due to COVID-19 by Barton Associates
- Example objective: Highlight all key areas of health plan benefits throughout the year.
- Examples of Communication Topics: Provide short snippets that describe each health plan benefit. Remind employees how to access their health plan details. If you encourage employees to check prices on costs, provide basic directions on how to have those conversations.
- Rationale: 35 percent of employees admit to not fully understanding or know nothing about their health care coverage. When surveyed, 80 percent of workers said they understood their benefits, but after testing their knowledge, only 49 percent of employees actually understood them
- Source: One-third of Employees Don’t Understand their Health Benefits by HR Dive.
Decide the Cadence
Depending on your goals, create a communication plan that sets a cadence for communication and outlines the channels. Communication can focus on one topic for one to three months or rotate through topics and repeat them throughout the year. Whenever possible, keep communications to short, digestible pieces to encourage engagement and avoid overwhelming your employees.
Adapt to the Virtual (or In-Person) Environment
Pivot your communication to fit your employee base best. Businesses are operating at various levels of normalcy. Even if your business is fully functioning in-person, try experimenting with new ways to communicate, such as mobile apps, virtual benefits, annual enrollment tours, text messages, company announcements, internal meetings, email and intranet.
Using multiple channels not only addresses generational preference, but it may reveal new findings about how your employees interact with technology.
Natalie Criswell is a Commercial Insurance Specialist with Brown & Brown. She may be reached at 269-254-6374 or Natalie.Criswell@bbrown.com.
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