According to a workplace survey by HR consultant Mercer released last year, employer provided benefits are increasingly vital to the employer-employee relationship. For 91 percent of those employees, having benefits through their employer is just as important as being paid a salary.
But when it comes to communicating effectively with employees about their benefits, many employers could be doing a better job. Granted, employee benefits aren’t the easiest to understand, for employees or employers. But according to the 2012 Open Enrollment Survey by Aflac, most employees aren’t receiving sufficient enrollment information about their benefit plans, and as healthcare evolves and the need for employees to be more proactive about their healthcare decisions grows, education and communication are more crucial than ever.
So why not give your employees what they want, where they want it?
With employees increasingly turning to technology to access every possible kind of information, it only makes sense to take advantage of the same technology to communicate with them. According to a new study by The Guardian Life Insurance Company of America, when employees receive communications about their benefits through the channels they prefer and can enroll through the channels they prefer, they’re much more likely to make better enrollment decisions. That leads to greater satisfaction with their benefits, a higher perceived value of their company’s benefits plan, and greater loyalty.
And no need to limit yourself to one medium. There are multiple options with today’s technology, and the Guardian study found that when employees are exposed to the same message through different mediums, they’re more likely to understand their options.
Below are a few ways to take advantage of the digital age to communicate more effectively with your employees about their benefits options.
Electronic benefits campaigns
Don’t wait for the yearly open enrollment period to start educating your employees about their plan options. They’re already receptive to receiving information online, so consider delivering their enrollment materials electronically. Send out regular email blasts throughout the year with information about the benefit plans and reminders on when and how to enroll. Offer a weekly newsletter with articles about benefit options and benefits brochures. Post information on the company Intranet or an internal website for employees to access.
Online benefits enrollment
According to the Guardian study, 80 percent of workers appreciate the option of signing up for benefits online so they can enroll at their convenience, and 90 percent of the employees who use online enrollment report being satisfied with the online enrollment experience.
Conference calls / web meetings
For larger employers, company-wide conference calls with accompanying web meetings during open enrollment are an effective tool. Have your HR department host the call and invite representatives from your benefits vendors to offer information and answer questions.
This is a great way to remind employees of enrollment deadlines and other time sensitive issues.
Educational “Web Day”
Invite your plan vendors to conduct more in-depth demos and how employees how to get up and running on their websites. Liven up the event with a theme, complete with decorations and door prizes.
Provide a regular streaming source of information about your employees’ benefits and open enrollment options with blogs sent to their Outlook email or their web browser.
At COBRAGuard, we’ve had great success using robo-dial services to deliver convenient automated COBRA administration messages to COBRA participants by telephone. For example, by using automated messages to remind COBRA participants of key dates, we improve their ability to fully utilize benefits. Similar opportunities likely exist in other areas of your benefits program.
Don’t forget COBRA participants
Remember that your COBRA participants need open enrollment information too. And, if you’re changing benefit plans or providers, be careful to maintain COBRA continuity so you don’t face an unexpected COBRA administration blackout (AKA: Discovering after the first of the year that no one set up COBRA administration!)
You have a captive audience all year long, so take advantage of the technology your employees are already using to efficiently communicate the value of your benefits program and give them the information they need to make smart decisions. By going digital, you can electrify benefits communication and increase employee satisfaction!
Want more open enrollment tips?
Insurance brokers: Download "How to Prepare Employers for COBRA Housekeeping After Open Enrollment."
HR professionals: Download “Ready for Open Enrollment? Beware of COBRA Quicksand?”