By Jennifer Benz
Fall is annual enrollment season for employee benefits and most employers are right in the middle of finalizing their benefit changes and plan designs, creating employee communication, testing benefits enrollment systems and scheduling employee meetings. With everything to consider, how do you know your open enrollment communication will hit the mark? These five tips are simple to implement and will require just a little extra time to take your enrollment communication to the next level.
Keep it simple. Employees top concerns during enrollment are: what is changing? What will it cost? Spell out these answers (and why) in simple easy-to-understand terms along with simple step-by-step instructions on how to enroll. If you haven’t already, create a one-page Enrollment “Tip Sheet” that lists what’s changing in as simple of form as possible (perhaps just a bulleted list), gives brief enrollment instructions and tells employees and families where to go for all the details. Some employees want just the top-line info and some want all the details. This one-page overview will be helpful for both groups.
Make it personal. Resist the temptation to include figures about your total benefits spend or tell employees how many billion dollars per year bad health care decisions are costing the US. Those figures may perk up your CFO’s ears, but your employees need to know how it impacts them, their lives and their families. If you talk about your overall health care costs, break it down into what the company spends per employee. That is, how much do your health benefits add to each employee’s paycheck? When you talk about changes that could decrease costs, tell your employees what that will mean to their pocketbook. “Using generic drugs instead of brand-name prescriptions could put an extra $500 in your pocket each year,” instead of “The cost of brand-name drugs is three times that of generic drugs and adds $800,000 a year to our health care costs.”
Promote missed or under-utilized benefits. Put together a list of the 5-10 benefit plans that employees are not using enough-your health savings account, fitness benefits, voluntary insurance, hidden features of the EAP, your preventive care benefit, commuter benefits, etc.-and put them together as a one-page flyer. Title it “The top-10 employee benefits you’re missing” or “10 ways you’re not getting the most from your benefit plans.” Spell out the program, why it’s valuable and how to enroll/sign up/get reimbursed. Then, ask employees to send in their own tips and use those for a post-enrollment update (you can have IT set up a new email address for you or use your existing benefits feedback channel).
Talk to your employees and let your employees talk. Debating whether or not to schedule enrollment meetings? In-person meetings are always worth the effort. Employees will feel like you are reaching out to them and giving them an opportunity to ask questions. Can’t make it to all of your locations? Hold virtual meetings or conference calls. Post the recording online for employees who can’t make it.
Or, start a benefits blog and ask employees to give feedback and ask questions via the comments section. Too much of a time commitment? You don’t have to be prolific, just a post a week during enrollment season will be of huge value to employees. Reminders and tips about enrollment are simple to post. Also, think about giving employees some “insider” tips about their benefits, the enrollment system or hidden features of their health plan. Chances are your benefits team knows a ton off the top of their heads that employees would be very interested in. (Still convinced you can’t write a blog post a week or worried about your writing skills? Shhhh, your consultant or internal communication group can help write them for you.)
Get managers in the game. Chances are your employees are talking to their managers at least once a week, maybe several times a day. Get “the boss” in the game and give managers the tools and incentive to talk to their employees about benefits. Many retailers send out business updates to all store managers every week. Get a line on enrollment in that announcement (and let that turn into a bullet or two once a month about benefits). Employee benefits are a key reason you can attract and retain a top workforce-managers should know that this plays into motivating their team. Often they just don’t know what to say or how to say it-so give them talking points and a quick run-down on why it matters to them.
Jennifer Benz (Benz Communications) is an award-winning communication consultant and writer with extensive experience in employee health care and wellness, strategic HR and marketing communication. Jen has worked with dozens of organizations, reaching thousands of employees and customers. Her work has been recognized by Business Insurance, the International Association of Business Communicators, Hermes Creative and the Communicator Awards. She has been an influential force behind consumer-driven health care since the industry came into existence, managing some of the most successful early adopter Health Reimbursement Account and Health Savings Account implementations. Prior to starting Benz Communications, Jen worked for Hewitt Associates, where she helped shape the firm’s approach to health care communication. Jen is a member of the International Association of Business Communicators, the Northern California Human Resources Association, the Society of Human Resources Managers, and Women in Consulting. She holds a BS in Journalism from the University of Missouri-Columbia.
Article originally appeared on www.amazines.com.