Are You Sure Employees Understand New Benefit Offerings?

New year, new benefits! Whether you’ve selected a brand-new broker with all new offerings, or simply just re-upped the same tried and true package, there are still changes (yep, even on those “same” policies) that your employees need to understand.

Communicate these changes, short of doing an in-depth Q and A with each of your employees on an individual basis, is an annual challenge every employer faces.

Here are a few the strategies that you can deploy to spread the word about the benefits plan for the New Year, since you want your employees to use it to be their healthiest and most productive selves:

Speak out ahead of any changes: There are only two times when communication spreads quickly: when it’s bad news and when it’s a rumor. In general, humans don’t take kindly to change and thus any talk of change can cause misinformation to spread like wildfire. Get out ahead of the gossip by thinking about how you’re going to communicate the changes, even before you have signed on the dotted line to actually make said change. Developing this communication plan ahead of rolling out any change will not only put a stop to office gossip, but also show your employees that you are knowledgeable and trustworthy when it comes to changes.

Be clear: Again, to stop the rumor mill before it even starts, you should be sure to clearly communicate the changes. Be as honest as possible – why are you going with a new plan? If it’s to save money let your employees know that and be sure to tell them what you hope to do with the savings that will benefit them.

….and clearly upbeat: In being transparent, you can also be upbeat – lead with what your employees stand to gain from the change in benefit offerings. Will it be easier for them to access their benefits? Are they gaining some fun new perks? Can they now use a health savings account (HSA) to help offset some of their out-of-pocket cost? Let them know what drove you to make this decision, with a particular focus on the benefits that you saw when you made your selection.

Keep it simple: Whether your communicating a completely new benefits package or simply a change or two to the one that you’ve been offering for years, your communication needs to be simple. Nix the industry jargon, don’t get bogged down in the numbers, and avoid overly wordy prose. Instead, type up a bulleted list with short sentences that highlight the most important changes that you anticipate they will experience as a result of the change.

Get your message out there: Mailed notification, email, posters, inbox reminders, carrier pigeon, skywriter. It doesn’t matter what medium you plan to use to get your message out there, but choose more than one to ensure that your message is heard loud and clear. And don’t just limit your communication to paper reminders (because we all know those can be so easily ignored!) Consider also hosting benefits luncheons, dial-in meetings, skype chats, and other verbal information sessions to disseminate information. Everybody learns and absorbs material differently, so she more ways you can communicate, the broader your reach and the better informed your employees will be.

Go for broke(r): You hired your broker (or whoever is administering your benefits plan) for a reason. In their sales pitch, they likely promised you the world, or at least that they would be there for you to support the entire benefits administration process. Make them put their money where their mouth is and let them host some of these sessions, put their name on employee information as a person your workers can contact with questions, and generally utilize their wealth of information (both knowledge wise and materials wise) to get your employees on board.

Follow-up: Saying it once – even if you say it thoroughly – isn’t going to cut it. Instead, the benefits administration process means that you need to be checking in with your employees at select intervals to address any questions or concerns they may have and also monitor the actual roll out of said benefits. Further, use the analysis tools at your disposal to determine what is working with the new benefits offering to help shape and guide your selections for the following year.

Now, in an ideal world, you’ll use this as a checklist of sorts and layer on the communication, touching on each strategy as you go. However, you know your business best, and from experience you might know that posters, for example, are rarely read by your employees and thus can go ahead and skip that step. However, you would be wise to ensure that you certainly deploy at least a handful of these ideas to ensure that all changes are communicated efficiently and effectively.

Overwhelmed? A Professional Employer Organization’s (PEO) human resource professionals can assist with every step of the benefits process from educating employees to ensuring compliance with the Affordable Care Act. Ask us how or call us at 800-400-1968.