Seven Strategies for Helping Employees Understand Their Benefits
1. Use Multiple Communication Channels
Tailoring messaging and communication channels to different employee demographics is key. For instance, frequent text messages and social media suit millennial staffers, while printed materials and in-person meetings work better for older employees nearing retirement. Varying communication methods also reach those with different learning styles.
HR should utilize all available technologies, like email, text, snail mail, and live video meetings, with follow-up reminders from managers. Benefits education cannot be one-size-fits-all. HR must adapt to reach diverse workforces spanning different cultures, languages, and barriers to communication.
Surveys indicate that 31% of employees do not feel fully informed on voluntary benefits like critical illness insurance or identity theft protection. This massive gap shows HR cannot rely solely on open enrollment packets. Messaging should be tailored and delivered through mediums matching worker demographics and needs.
2. Communicate Year-Round
Tying benefits information to current events provides opportunities for year-round communication. For example, headlines about student loan forgiveness allow reminders about legal services benefits. Brief, nonpartisan explanations of hot topics like immigration policies or rising care costs reinforce the value of benefits packages outside of open enrollment.
This continual drip of bite-sized information means employees can make informed choices during open enrollment rather than guessing. Sending regular, targeted messages year-round is more effective than cramming information all at once.
Many employees spend minimal time reviewing benefits options during open enrollment. Bombarding workers with info in a short window can easily overwhelm rather than educate. Ongoing education through news tie ins and reminders will also build understanding over time.
3. Target Major Life Events
Proactively sharing benefits information during major life events allows HR to tailor messaging when employees need it most. For example, the birth of a child, marriage, divorce, or death of a spouse significantly impacts benefit needs and choices. HR should provide relevant info and reminders during these pivotal times.
Third-party content from government and vendor sources can supplement employer-created communications around life events. The focus should be on overall health and well-being instead of just listing plan details.
Experts report many workers do not understand how key life milestones impact their benefit choices and needs. Targeting messaging around major events reaches people when they are focused on and open to guidance.
4. Leverage Employee Resource Groups
Employee resource groups centered around specific demographics like working parents or employees with disabilities often focus on issues tied to benefits. Encouraging these groups to share peer-to-peer benefits guidance tailored to their members’ needs boosts understanding. Who better to explain the value of family leave policies than a working parents group?
5. Mind the Timing, Costs, and Tools
HR should provide benefits information early enough for employees to digest before open enrolment but not so far in advance that they forget details. Clearly communicating employee out-of-pocket costs for each plan also helps workers comparison shop options.
Decision support tools like online calculators and checklists further boost informed choices. Employees can input personal data to receive tailored plan recommendations and cost breakdowns.
Experts emphasize that personalized data on costs and comparisons leads to better plan selection and significant savings for employees. Tools should provide specific costs and plan comparisons, not just general information.
6. Track Metrics
HR teams should analyze open enrollment data like plan selection trends, website traffic, email open rates, form submissions, and call volume. Compare year-over-year metrics to see if new communication approaches improve engagement and informed choices.
Surveying employees provides direct feedback on their benefits understanding and education satisfaction. This identifies lingering communication gaps. Consider A/B testing different pieces to determine what content and formats resonate most.
Crunching the numbers allows HR to continually refine messaging based on results. Robust metrics identify gaps and which strategies close them. The focus should be driving understanding, not just distributing information. Tracking engagement data optimizes communication.
7. Make Communication Ongoing
Treating benefits education as a continuous, year-round process rather than a once-a-year event during open enrollment season is crucial. Employees can’t absorb all plan details in a short timeframe when their focus is elsewhere.
Creating an environment of trust through relationship building also fosters benefits understanding. Employees will pay more attention to communications from an HR department they see as supportive.
Consistent messaging spread throughout the year is far more effective at educating workers than concentrated open enrollment info alone. Make benefits communication a 365-day strategy.