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of employees believe more personalized benefits education would improve their health care insurance understanding
of Americans could correctly define basic terms such as deductible, copay, coinsurance and premium
Keeping track of what is—and isn’t—covered, how much you have to pay out of your pocket for coverage and care, what deadlines are coming up (and what happens if you miss them) AND what the latest regulations mean to you can be downright paralyzing to the average American. So how can we expect employees to remember what they need to know about their benefits if we only communicate at open enrollment?
The short answer is—we can’t.
On the other hand, bombarding employees with information and materials from their employer, the vendors and administrators of each of their benefits programs, consultants and brokers—and even the government—isn’t a solution either. After a while, it all becomes so much noise…and gets ignored.
And just to complicate matters further—you need to communicate differently to a 22-year-old right out of school, a 27-year- old fresh off his/her parent’s plan and a 40-year-old middle manager with a family.
The challenge is to find the right balance between giving employees access to the help and information they need to choose and use their coverages wisely, while making sure they know about benefits they might have forgotten about—or didn’t even know existed. And for that, you need a plan.
A formal, written communications strategy can help you and your client plan—and schedule—benefits messaging year-round. A strategy will enable you to track which messages are going to which audiences, the timing of those messages, who is sending them and what channels are being used. By mapping out required communications (government notices and compliance materials), deadline reminders, basic benefits education, and plan-, life event- and audience-specific materials, you’ll be better able to manage the flow of information and to strike that balance.
If you’re not a communications pro, consider bringing in partners to work with you and your client to create and populate your strategy. A few working sessions should be enough to create a framework to help you plan for the year ahead.
If that’s not an option, at least be sure to review the materials your clients’ employees are receiving. You may be able to identify redundancies, gaps, or opportunities to enhance your client’s brand and image with its employees.
We can’t limit benefits communications efforts to just annual enrollment if we want employees to engage in their benefits coverage. After all, isn’t it ALWAYS open enrollment? New employees come onboard throughout the year…current employees may experience a change of status…or maybe your client just acquired a new company. Year-round communications help keep benefits top of mind and ensure employees have the information they need WHEN they need it.
To help plan and track your client’s communications efforts during the year, a formal, written communications strategy is essential. Once you determine who you’re going to communicate with, here are some other key elements a robust strategy should include.