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It’s time for employers to set a new standard for communicating to employees about their benefits options.

The standard education process practices just don’t work. You know them: holding a meeting in the conference room; passing out a five-pound explanatory packet (that no one reads); and following up with vaguely threatening emails underscoring the deadline for selecting a plan.

The results of a recent study found that 90 percent of employees auto enroll in the same package with an average of 15 minutes spent on weighing benefits options.

So what can employers do to get employees more engaged in selecting the benefits for which they are paying an increasing amount?  

1. Make it Relatable and Personalized

When it comes to benefits explanations one size does not fit all these days. Generational research available online gives employers much more imformation that can help customize benefits education programs for the major generations that they employ: baby boomers, Gen X, millennials. While this approach does make assumptions based upon age, it’s a far better starting point than simply having one presentation mode for the whole workforce.

Personalize messages to employees when possible. Something as simple as adding a greeting with the employee’s first name at the top of each generic message informing them that the enrollment period is now open is another technique to enhance engagement.

2. Communicate Throughout the Enrollment Period

Why not take the same approach to benefits enrollment that you would use if you were in charge of planning a party for the founder of your organization. You wouldn’t simply send out one invitation announcing the time, place and suggested attire, and hope that someone would show up. You would establish a timeline and create materials to be emailed, mailed – perhaps even sent by text message or placed on the company Facebook page – so that each message was being sent in a well-integrated pattern with the others.

The same approach can be taken with benefits enrollment. You know in advance what the enrollment period will be. Use the time. Here are some suggestions for communication options to consider: meetings (one-on-one and group); online (webinars, avatars, presentations); emails (work and home); telephone (toll-free help line, outbound calls to employees); mobile device messaging; and external social media.

3. Integrate Voluntary Benefits Into the Package

Research has found that carving voluntary benefits out of the core package reduces participation in what voluntary has to offer. Overcome this obstacle by making them one package.

Explain to employees that voluntary benefits are a cost-effective way to fill in gaps in the core benefits package. This can be communicated through materials distributed and any verbal communications within the organization. Provide an example to better explain how voluntary benefits can enhance their core benefits.  An example that is easy to understand would be including the voluntary benefit of legal insurance in the same explanatory section with employer-sponsored life insurance. If one has life insurance, one may want legal insurance that takes care of trust and will issues.

4. Describe Options Available to Employees by Using Rich and Varied Content

Employees tend to shift their attention as enrollment time approaches. You will want to highlight any new options, important financial information, perhaps mention options that are no longer included, and voluntary options that should have a broad appeal. This is the time to use the company newsletter, enews, website and other communications modes to talk in short bursts about various features of the upcoming package. Include the price and two or three key product benefits that provide value to the employees — along with descriptions on how the product gives them added financial security or fills coverage gaps in your messaging.

5. The Information Placed at the Point of Enrollment Matters

Positioning of information about a certain benefit option at the point of enrollment has been shown to influence the selection process. Placing an option you want to “sell” right before choices are made helps direct employees to that option.  If there are too many clicks needed to learn more, many employees lose interest.

6. Simplify the Language of Benefits Communications

Hire a writer who will interpret your organizations materials and messages and provide clear explanations.  Product names that are placed into the materials should include what is does for the insured and what the name actually means.

Presenting employees with different product names produces different — and sometimes negative — reactions. Terms like ‘group legal insurance’ or ‘voluntary legal insurance’, for example, lead employees to wonder, ‘what group is this a part of’ or ‘what does voluntary mean?’

7. Evaluate Often that Benefits Information is Effectively Communicated to Employees

Of considerable benefit to streamlining the process is testing new modes of communications, and tracking their effectiveness. By trying and tracking new methods of communication you will be able to determine what works and what doesn’t.

Not only helping employees make better choices for themselves, communications that work can support the company’s cost-control strategy. You will have a clearer picture of which options employees are willing to pay for, and which options they don’t want.

In summary, better informed decisions can be made by effectively communicating with your workforce during the enrollment period.

If you are a current Paypro Benefits client and you need help with your enrollment process, please reach out to your dedicated Paypro Benefits Specialist.

For more information on Paypro’s Employee Benefits Solutions, please click here.