Open enrollment benefits season is winding down, but your employee communication strategy about benefit plans should only be beginning.
Each year, employers have to deal with procrastinators — employees who wait till the last minute to make their benefits choices. But it’s tough to blame them for putting off a task that many consider unpleasant. A recent study sponsored by MetLife found that one in five workers spends only a few minutes making benefits decisions, and that one-third of American workers would rather talk about their weight than employee benefits.
The challenge now is to make your employees good benefit users. Workers don’t tend to think about health benefits until they need them. And the most they might think about other benefits is when they’re considering taking a vacation or leave, or when they take an occasional peek at their 401(k) to see how it’s doing. (According to this Human Resource Executive piece, employees are more likely to know their monthly cable bill by heart than they are to know about their paycheck deductions.)
Here are five ways of using employee communication to help keep benefits on employees’ minds:
- Publish a regular newsletter. Put it out in hard copy as well as digital. Don’t do it too often — most employees are already overwhelmed with daily emails — but a monthly or quarterly edition will keep employees’ attention. Include physical, mental and financial health tips. Feature an employee who has a story to tell, such as a weight-loss journey, an unusual hobby or running a first marathon.
- Make wellness fun. Being active is easier with a partner or group — or with competition. Everyone is different, so provide options for activities that fit everyone’s lifestyle and preference. Some companies offer health-plan discounts for employees who do things like get flu shots, have annual physicals or talk to a health coach. You could even build a wellness community among employees through a wellness social-sharing site, such as this one that PartnerComm created for Unum.
- Keep it short, sweet — and light. Employee communication should be simple and clear and memorable. A sense of humor is a plus and helps with engagement. You don’t have to be a stand-up comic, but look for light stories about company successes, workplace events and making the most of benefits. If you have the resources, you might even consider cartoons in your communication — cartoonists know how to get the point across with humor, often in as little as one panel.
- Communication is a two-way street. Let employees know that the choices they make can affect their costs the next year. If employees choose generic drugs over brand-name or urgent care over emergency-room treatment, they can help keep health care costs down for the company. But also encourage employees to give feedback on how their benefits are working for them throughout the year — not just during annual enrollment time.
- Support the whole employee experience. This phrase is becoming more common; it should become a mantra. Provide not just medical, dental and vision benefits, but also mental health benefits (such as an Employee Assistance Program) and financial health benefits (such as investment advisors). Providing flexible schedules, opportunities to work remotely, child and elder care support, pet insurance and leave of absence policies go further in supporting employees not just during work hours, but at home, too.