Communicating effectively with your employees can be a challenge any time of the year. But if there’s one time your communication needs to be crystal clear and hitting the mark, it’s during annual open enrollment for healthcare benefits.
That’s especially true now that the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and the new Marketplace exchanges are fully operational. With a host of new guidelines and regulations, employers have to be better educated and informed than ever before. And with more choices, employees have more questions than ever.
Employees still need more education
According to the 2014 Aflac Workforces Report, 76 percent of American workers say they’ve made mistakes when choosing their benefits, and 42 percent say those mistakes have cost them money. Whether it’s failing to take advantage of supplemental coverage such as vision or dental, choosing the wrong level of coverage, or contributing too little to Flexible Spending Accounts, far too many workers are making benefits coverage decisions they end up regretting – often simply due to a lack of information.
How can your HR staff help your employees understand their benefits and make smart financial choices?
Make it personal.
Follow these five tips to give your benefits communications the personal touch that hits the mark with employees.
1. Find out what they want and need. Pay attention to the questions your employees ask during the open enrollment period. Take a survey to understand their needs, preferences, and fears. Collect all the data you can from surveys, retirement plans, and other sources of information to learn what kinds of decisions your employees are making about their benefits. This data can be invaluable for creating a more targeted communication and education strategy all year round.
2. Communicate with them regularly. Instead of a one-time information blitz at open enrollment, why not give your employees regular information and advice all year long? As Mimi Kelly, HR Manager at Businessolver says, “There’s no such thing as too much communication.” And with modern technology, there are plenty of avenues available for reaching your employees. In fact, studies have shown that when employees get the same information multiple times through different mediums, they’re more likely to really grasp it. Send a series of informational and educational emails throughout the year, for example. When open enrollment comes around, your employees will be much better prepared to make smart decisions.
3. Meet them where they are. Most employees today are pretty tech savvy, so take advantage of technology to reach out to them where they’re most comfortable getting information. Online enrollment, email, text messages, Twitter and other social media, conference calls, and web meetings are just some of the tech tools available to connect with your employees on a more personal level.
4. Give them relevant “what-if” scenarios. Employees are naturally curious about what others in their circumstances do, such as how much health coverage a young single typically needs, whether a married person with a family should choose dental and vision coverage or spend the money on life insurance, etc. Giving them real-life scenarios they can visualize themselves in can help them see their own situations more clearly.
5. Offer practical tools. Give your employees useful tools such as an online financial learning center where they can get advice, crunch their own numbers, and learn how to make better financial decisions. Work with your benefits provider to develop a customized financial education program to fit their needs.
Annual enrollment mistakes can be costly for your employees. Communicate with them regularly and personally about their benefit options and how their decisions affect their financial well-being. Don’t just be a boss – be a trusted advisor. It’s good for your employees, and good for business.
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