Quick summary: When it comes to benefits, you know you must communicate with your employees. You probably do so regularly. But are you missing another key audience?
About half of the average company’s health care spending is tied to dependents, according to the consulting firm Towers Perrin. Some sources put that figure even higher. But if your organization is like most, all of your benefits communication efforts are focused on your employees.
How can you bring dependents into the information loop? Here are several suggestions from a Unum study by Harris Interactive (August 2008):
Use multiple channels. You can’t take a “one size fits all” approach with employee communications. The same is true for family members. A mix of high- and low-tech messages will give you the best chance of reaching everyone. For example, send emails and post information on your company intranet if it can be accessed by employees and their dependents at home. Send information by mail into the homes too.
Include them in meetings. Invite spouses and/or other covered adults to benefits meetings, if you have them. Maximize your attendance by offering meetings at a variety of times. Allow dependents to learn and ask questions about how your plans work, plan changes, and coverage options.
Send benefits mailings home. Make it easy for employees to share details of your benefits offerings with their families. The health care decision-maker in the family often is not the employee. Home mailings are the simplest way to make certain dependents have the information they need and to promote discussion.
Make Web information user-friendly. Online resources are wonderful, but only if they can be accessed outside the workplace in a simple fashion. On-demand Webcasts can be a great way to provide employees and their dependents the details they need at a time and place that is convenient for them.
While you’re at it, be sure to encourage parents to discuss benefits with their young adult children. The Unum study found that less than one-third of “Generation Y” workers say their parents have talked with them about workplace benefits.
“Generation Y is entering a workplace in which benefits decisions and paying for some coverages is their responsibility,” says Mike Simonds, Unum senior vice president. “These young workers need to be prepared to make the decisions that will help protect their financial security, and this research shows that the generation made up largely of their parents—and bosses—isn’t preparing them.”
Assess your “other” audience—the spouses and dependents. Find out who they are and how many there are.
Decide on multiple channels to reach them.
Evaluate how much of your benefits information is easily accessible to these covered dependents. Prioritize the messages that would be the most valuable for that audience and look for opportunities to include them.
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