Alright, let me say that this isn’t an article dedicated to making sure you and your spouse/significant other have an open flow of communication in your relationship. This article is about communication in a different sense—benefits communication. In the state of Massachusetts it is now a law that you must have health insurance, therefore most employers in this state now offer health insurance. There exists a serious flaw in the mandatory system of employer sponsored health insurance. The flaw is that most employees don’t actually understand their coverage! Since the introduction of consumer directed health plans, limited doctor networks, deductibles and co-insurance, many people don’t understand where they can receive treatment and also don’t understand how much they’re going to have to pay for their healthcare.
This situation is easily remedied by implementing a few preventative measures. Most importantly the simplest step that an employer can make is to survey/ask your employees how they want to be communicated with. In many workforces, there is a wide age distribution. Some employees may be in their sixties and nearing retirement, while others may be in their twenties and just out of college. The point is that people need to be communicated with differently! Some prefer in-person meetings, while others may prefer an online webinar or even an email communication. The greater the workforce, the harder it is to reach everyone with one type of communication. Getting a good baseline of how people prefer to receive information is going to make your job as an employer much easier and more successful.
The second step in proper benefits communication is to make sure you do it early and often. Thirty days before open enrollment you should send a reminder out to your employees to make sure they are aware of the deadline. Be sure to identify how and when follow up communication will be presented to them. Studies of groups of employees have indicated that when employees were notified of benefits enrollment three weeks in advance through three or more different types of communications that 90% were confident in their decision and 81% of those people place a much higher value on their benefits plan. Conversely, if employees are only given a week’s notice with one method of communication, only 50% were confident in their decision with a mere 43% placing a high value on their benefits plan. These numbers are staggering. This second step is essential to having a workforce that is happy with their benefits plan and confident in their decisions regarding coverage.
The final, and most important step that you should take is to follow up and ensure overall satisfaction.
Health insurance is a sensitive topic. It is a proven fact that people do not like change in general. When making any changes in enrollment or coverage, specific and careful steps must be taken to follow up and engage your employees after the process has been completed. You might survey them to see what they liked/disliked about the health plan and also how they viewed the process that they went through. This is one form of an exit survey and is a great way to make sure that everyone is content with the plan and enrollment procedures. It is also a great way to gain insight for the next enrollment period to work out any kinks in the process.
In closing, communication is essential to administering an employee benefits program. Whether you’re an employer or someone in human resources, the process should be centered on your employees and their satisfaction with the benefits plan they are being offered. After all, they dictate how your organization functions and performs, so making them understand their benefits is critical to both their happiness and yours.