Managing a benefit plan can be difficult. With low participation rates in Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) and high participation rates in health and dental programs, plan sponsors can find it challenging to balance their benefit plan. This reality compounded with the effects of employee turnover means that benefit plan communication is of utmost importance.
For many HR teams, this is where communication becomes imperative. Communication – or the lack thereof – can be an obstacle for any organization. With the many changes that can occur with a benefit plan from year to year, employees can go years without knowing what benefits are available to them.
Here are some suggestions employers can use to get ahead and set themselves up for continued success:
1. KNOW YOUR AUDIENCE
Employers need to ensure that they are communicating in a way that considers their audience. There is nothing worse than reading thirty pages of legalese. Realistically, you cannot adjust for every possible level of understanding. As a rule of thumb, use professional language that is not overly technical.
2. EXPLAIN THOROUGHLY
Communicating group benefits can be challenging for many employers. Include simple definitions and clear, condensed summaries of the benefits offered to all employees. Communication at the least should be annual in order to remind your employees of what their benefits cover. Not only does this reduce low utilization of benefits such as EAP, it also increases awareness
3. BE TRANSPARENT
With communication comes the possibility of heavy plan utilization. Be transparent and let your employees know that utilization of a plan results in the increase of the unit rate. While this is a simplified version of the benefit plan design, transparency and communication of change is incredibly important to plan sponsor success.
4. MAKE INFORMATION AVAILABLE
Communication is incredibly important, but that does not mean it needs to be limited to active corporate communication alone. Having the information readily available, and constantly updated, is a must for corporate success. A great way to communicate is to have benefits information available on multiple platforms – including insurer APPs, email communications, newsletters, or internal portals. Keep in mind that having communication available electronically means that the most accurate and updated information can be provided. With printed material, it is always possible that the information the employee is referencing isn’t the most up to date.
5. ALLOW TWO-WAY COMMUNICATION
Effective communication of the employee benefit isn’t only about disseminating plan information. It also means that plan sponsors need to be open to suggestions and feedback. Anticipate that conflicts may arise, especially as employee needs change and shift. The plan design that works well for the single user may not be sufficient for the family user, and likewise when dealing with age differences. As a result, be prepared and create avenues to hear the feedback of your employees, always keeping in mind that they are the ones using the plan.