Insights

COBRA Conundrums
Employee Benefits Communication – What’s In, What’s Out
Employee Benefits Communication

During open enrollment, good communication is essential. Few would question this, but more may wonder what exactly good communication entails.

When it comes to selecting health plans, employees can easily become overwhelmed. After all, plan details include a lot of difficult-to-decipher jargon, and to the untrained eye, the differences can seem negligible. It’s easy for employees to give up and pick the first choice they encounter or default to the previous year’s selection despite any changes it may have undergone.

According to Aflac’s enrollment guide, most employees spend an hour or less selecting benefits, and almost half spend half an hour or less. This is a problem for employees as well as employers – 80 percent of employees say that their benefits package affects their engagement on the job, and 68 percent expect their employers to help them with changes to their health care coverage.

Clearly, employers need their employees to be happy with their benefits, and employees need their employers to help them navigate benefits options.

What You Shouldn’t Do

To improve communication during open enrollment, start by assessing your current practices. You may find that you’ve fallen into some lazy or outdated habits. Don’t:

  • Simply mail out a large package of benefits information and consider your role complete.
  • Assume employees will understand plan options on their own.
  • Ignore the communication preferences of your workforce.

What You Should Do

As you renovate your open enrollment communication practices, here are a few ideas. Do:

  • Consider various communication methods that appeal to your workforce, such as in-person meetings or online digital tools.
  • Encourage questions.
  • Explain jargon in easy-to-understand terms.
  • Compare plan options with clear visual aids.

A Few More Tips

Imagine this scenario: you hold a meeting to explain plan options, you encourage questions, and then you’re stumped by the first question you get. To make sure employees understand their benefits options, you have to make sure you understand them first. To help you prepare, Employee Benefit Adviser has a list of 10 common questions you’re likely to encounter.   

For a technologically savvy workforce, think about innovative communication methods. For example, social media can provide a convenient way to convey plan information. Find out which platforms are popular among employees and incorporate them into your communication efforts. A blog can another be an easy way to outline plan details, share visual aids and address common questions. Also, many people these days prefer texting as their main method of communication, so look into making this an option as well.

Finally, remember to include both regular plan participants and COBRA plan participants in your communications.

In the end, developing good open enrollment communication is a matter of thinking about the process from the point of view of the employees. A little effort on your part can lead to greater employee satisfaction and a happier, stronger company.

Need help with benefits administration? iTEDIUM automates cumbersome HR tasks throughout every stage of the benefits life cycle. Ask us how we can help your team operate more efficiently.

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