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Rethinking Employee Benefits Communication

/ October 4, 2017 October 4, 2017


A common challenge that every organization faces today is the rising cost of healthcare and its impact on the suitability and quality of their employee benefit plan. It is a classic struggle –  appropriately managing employer costs, while offering a benefits package that remains competitive and appealing enough to attract and retain their talent. This challenge is magnified by the lack of transparency and timing of a company’s annual benefits renewal process. With all of the effort and anxiety that comes with the benefits renewal process, including but not limited to budgeting for costs that are beyond your control and having to work within a small window of time to coordinate and conduct the renewal process, ask yourself whether your employees understand your benefits and whether your plans actually address their needs?

Despite these challenges, forward thinking organizations who are willing to rethink the entire plan design and communication process are likely to deliver a comprehensive benefits package that will have meaningful impact to your employees.

Before addressing the cost side of this equation, let’s address the basics:

Communication is a significant problem. Over 70% of employees do not understand their benefits and therefore become poor consumers of the plan. The result – their needs are not met, their expenses are higher and the significant investment made by their employer fails to deliver the impact intended. Ask yourself why they don’t understand? A little brain science might help. The “forgetting curve” research reveals that within one hour, people will have forgotten an average of 50 percent of the information you presented. Within 24 hours, they have forgotten an average of 70 percent of new information, and within a week, forgetting claims an average of 90 percent of it. Traditional open enrollment processes simply fail to deliver impact. Rethink your approach and change from a set-it-and-forget it exercise that results in your organization falling out of touch with your employees. Instead,  boost your communication and marketing of the plan on a year long basis, emphasizing the impact to the employees. Enhancing your communication requires planning. To “get started,” consider the following actions:

  • Run a demographic analysis of your employees to determine generational categories and correlate these to their overall benefit plan choices. You are likely to find significant differences in the choices your employees make. The millennial population will have a different perception and expectation of what types of benefits will be of value to them than a Baby Boomer population.
  • Ask your employees what they value by conducting a simple employee survey? Their responses will provide meaningful insight.
  • If your broker offers an employee advocacy service – ask for the data to determine what obstacles, questions and challenges your employees actually face – turn this data into communication and education.
  • Benchmark your plan against similar sized organizations in your geography.

Use the available data and insights to tailor the communication to the specific needs of your employee population. Develop a marketing calendar for your benefits plan – consider “YouTube” type videos to articulate the value of your plan;  host lunch and learns throughout the year to explain the the perks often hidden in the plan details. Too often insured’s don’t realize their plan may have built-in benefits such as fitness reimbursements, discounts for eye wear, financial wellness tools.

As you gain insight into what matters to your employees, change the paradigm. Benefits such a Student Loan Payment Assistance, Pet Insurance, ID Theft Protection are just a few examples of low cost, high impact benefits that may help you lead the pack in the recruiting and retention game.

On the cost side of this equation, companies of all sizes now have a host of new funding concepts with the aim at lower premium costs and/or improving your benefits design. The cost of a fully insured benfit plan is untenable to most organizations. Challenge your broker/consultant to work with you in funding strategies and plan design. Set the expectation with your broker that creativity around funding mechanisms is as critical as plan design. Think of these strategies across the spectrum of self-funding. Consortiums, Captives, Reference-based pricing models, On-site clinics, Private Networks are available funding strategies to address cost.

Treat employee benefits like other mission critical parts of your business. Develop a three year strategic plan to change funding strategies, enhance plan design, and communicate year round. Given the financial investment in your benefits plan, business leaders should understand the ROI.

Nothing is stopping you from getting started. Just do it!