Companies spend a lot of time and money creating valuable benefits plans for employees. But even after all that work, they still often get low participation. Good benefit choices require employers to help employees understand their benefits.
PlanSponsor recently reported that two-thirds of employees want year-round help understanding and using their benefits. That number goes up to 78% among Millennials. So, let’s take a look at what employees need to best use the benefits you provide.
What employees need to know
BenefitsPro found that employees may make mistakes when going to doctors. In fact, the fear of making a mistake may stop them from getting preventive care. Employees who don’t take care for themselves will not be able to take care of their jobs. So, it’s really important for employers to provide easy-to-understand materials that encourage employees to use their benefits.
Benefits education materials
- Summary Plan Description (SPD) – Lean, easy-to-read handout documents that explain the plans including limits, deductibles, and copays.
- Networks – Make sure employees learn the difference between in-network and out-of-network doctors. Help them figure out the best providers for them in the network. This includes hospitals and specialists.
- Member ID Cards – Make sure members have ID cards for the insurance coverages they are enrolled in. At minimum, the ID cards should show the member name, member number, group number, and important phone numbers.
- Problem Resolution Process – In the event that an insurance claim is rejected, make sure employees know who to contact to have the event reviewed.
Educated employees are more likely to use their benefits. They will also be able to make better decisions about their benefit options.
Delivering education through the right channels
Today’s workers come from different age ranges and cultures. Right now, there are four generations in the workplace. Those include the Baby Boomers, Gen X, Millennials, and Gen Z. Employees may have disabilities, come from different countries, or speak other dialects. This makes it harder for employers to communicate benefit information in a way that everyone is comfortable with and understands. Employers should use different communications methods to inform employees in ways that will help them make the best choices. Effective benefits education tools and processes include:
In-Person and Virtual Meetings
- Group meetings – If you hold a company-wide meeting, make sure there is follow-up to answer all questions.
- Individual meetings – Because of privacy issues, maintain an open-door policy to make sure employees have a way in which they feel comfortable asking for information and help.
- Health and wellness fairs – Live or virtual fairs can connect employees to plan representatives to ask questions and receive information.
- Web-based communications – Employees who are comfortable with technology may prefer a web portal to learn about and manage their benefits. The portal should connect employees with benefit providers, help them track benefit usage and claims resolution, and stay engaged with the plan. They might also like to learn from blogs, articles, webinars and videos.
- Emails – These can be a great tool for short reminders, follow-ups, and quick plan updates. They can also help distribute employee surveys and help with feedback requests.
- Social media – Employers should communicate year-round, as employees use their benefits year-round. Social channels can host groups where employees can ask questions, answer surveys, help each other, and get feedback on how they are using the plan.
- Print media – Brochures, flyers, and mailers are good for providing information to less tech-savvy employees. Plus, these tools can be made available online as well. Printed infographics are a good way to give important information in an easy read, interesting format.
- Interaction and engagement – Most people don’t enjoy, or at least look forward to, pouring through stacks of benefits information. Many employers are turning to fun, interactive programs to increase employee engagement in the benefits education process.
- The executive team – Having managers talk about the plan and lead by example can have a big impact on plan enrollment and participation.
Communication tips that work
Benefits education is not a “one-size-fits-all” approach. An effective communications plan should have information and recommendations based on age, lifestyle and financial status. Remember to break down information into short, engaging bites that focus on employee concerns. Putting real value into every activity and using different communication channels can result in more effective education efforts that employees actually look forward to.
DataPath, Inc. is the longest running solutions provider in the benefits administration industry. The company is also the creator of the award-winning employee education and engagement program, The Adventures of Captain Contributor.