Quick Summary: Communicating with employees all year long in creative and meaningful ways can go a long way in increasing their understanding of, and satisfaction with, your benefits plan.
Gone are the days when you could issue insurance cards to employees and send them on their way. Health care plans are increasingly complicated, causing frustration for many workers. It’s not enough for your company to make a big splash about health care benefits during enrollment: Getting clear information to your staff is a year-round job.
Most companies are ineffective at the task, says Frank Kenna III, CEO and president of The Marlin Company (www.themarlincompany.com), a workplace communications firm in Wallingford, Conn. “They bring in a representative from the insurance company to make a presentation, then they clap their hands and say, ‘That’s done!’” he says. “Follow-up communication just falls through the cracks.”
Adds Kenna: “If you’re trying to increase enrollment and get people to use these benefits, then you have to communicate with employees.”
Here’s some advice for keeping employees informed regularly:
• Devise a plan. Spend time deciding what you want employees to know about company benefits, when you’ll provide that information and in what format (meeting, bulletin board posting, intranet, newsletter). Know the best channels of communication and use them.
• Post information prominently. “A lot of companies put benefits information on the same bulletin board as required federal postings about minimum wage and other topics,” says Kenna. “Employees are conditioned not to look at that.” Instead, create a special bulletin board in a break room or other high-traffic area to hang information about your wellness program and company benefits.
• Bring the information to life. Instead of providing benefits descriptions full of industry jargon, use real-life scenarios written in plain language. For instance, rather than listing procedures and appointments that are covered by your insurance during pregnancy, follow a mom-to-be through her experience.
• Ask for feedback. Give employees a “report card” on which they can rate things such as preventive care, surgeries, and access to health care. This allows employees to air their opinions, and you gain important information about whether your health care plan is working.
• Keep online data current. Check the employees-only section of your Web site (or the Web site of your insurance provider) to make sure benefits information is up-to-date. For instance, is the online provider directory current? Can employees easily find correct phone numbers or emails to contact the insurer about claims, pharmacy benefits, network providers, and get answers to other commonly asked questions?
• Change your message. Don’t tack up a poster about what’s covered under your Health Savings Account and leave it there for a year. Kenna recommends posting new information at least quarterly. What should you display? “Any benefits or data that change,” he says. For example, you might create a bar graph showing the rising percentage of employees enrolled in the company’s flexible spending account.
• Offer “life changing” information. Make sure employees have plenty of information about how their benefits will change after a major life event, such as a marriage or birth.
• Include brief articles in your company newsletter. Write short “Did You Know?” items reminding employees about co-insurance options, dependent care flexible spending accounts, dental and vision insurance, and other benefits. “To have benefit plans and not push them really defeats a lot of the purpose of having them in the first place” says Kenna.
• Use all effective communication channels to keep employees informed about their health benefits year round, not just at enrollment time.
• Health insurance information can be boring and difficult to understand. Use real person stories as examples.
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