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Grant Ameel | COBRA & FMLA Expert
Evaluation and Communication
Even to those who work in the benefits industry, knowing the plan details can be perplexing, and for most employees a plan summary can appear to be written in a completely different language. A lot of companies might only have one medical plan, so it might not seem like much of a choice, but nevertheless, employees should have a good grasp of what their benefits entail. To that end, many employers have been looking for new and progressive ways to communicate their benefit packages to their employees, including the use of benefits administration software – because let’s be honest, when it comes to employer benefits, most employees only know how much is coming out of their paycheck and what their doctor visit and prescription co-pays are.
Know Your Employees To Create a Campaign That Works
There’s an age old saying in sales that 'the best customer is an educated customer'. When a customer is educated on the product they are spending money on, the more likely they are to be loyal and appreciative towards that product they have invested in and can feel good about the seller- consumer relationship. Employer benefits are hardly different in that regard, and employees seek benefit help solutions in a variety of ways. Sure, with the introduction of the Affordable Care Act, having medical insurance became a mandatory, legally binding, and subject to tax penalties stipulation in the United States, so enrolling in a company’s medical plan might appear less of a choice and more of an obligation. One could argue that the presence of benefit administration software has eased the benefits knowledge gap between employees and employers. Regardless, most employees don’t understand their medical benefits, and there’s still other benefits - short and long-term disability, 401ks, and life insurance for example - in which citizens are not required to have under the ACA, that employees will elect to waive simply because they don’t understand what it is they are getting in return.
If a company were to ask their employees if they knew what their copays, co-insurance and deductibles were and what that meant, they’d probably be hard-pressed to get accurate and knowledgeable responses. What about how their 401k works, and what their employer match is and what that means? Even things that aren’t benefits, such as COBRA and FMLA, are not that well known by your typical employee. Which is exactly why a lot of employers have been searching for inclusive ways to provide labor law and benefit help solutions to their workforce. After all, considering the immense amount of time and resources HR departments and benefits brokers put into designing health and welfare programs and investing in benefit administration software for employees, it can appear fruitless if those programs aren’t understood and taken advantage of.
So what can an employer do to break through the treacherous benefits barrier that has become commonplace? For starters, it’s important that a comprehensive employee education and communication campaign is put into place. Employers need to devise a way to communicate benefit help solutions that go beyond just handing out plan summary packets during open enrollment and hoping their employees A.) read them and B.) understand what they are reading. A good tactic is to utilize real life, relatable scenarios to paint a description of how their benefits plan would be applied in a similar situation. As with most consumers, employees need to be able to quantify the true cost and value of their benefits, and using real life situations to help explain things such as deductibles, co-pays, and flex spending accounts can go a long way in helping employees truly understand how their plans work in a relatable sense.
Develop a Great Communication Strategy.
Another good option to consider is the use of technology in your benefits campaign. Nearly every industry has made the necessarily transition away from paper communication methods to online and technical applications, like benefit administration software. Online web portals with access to plan summaries, webinars, email newsletters, and even social media can make access to information and benefit help solutions more convenient and effective than ever before for employees. In addition to that, a successful benefits campaign shouldn’t be diminished to just the open enrollment period, but should be continuous throughout the course of the plan year and online applications are a great way to ensure that employees are incessantly being educated on the benefits they have. Let’s also not forget that it’s not always the employee that is the focal beneficiary of a plan. Often a spouse or another dependent is the person on the plan that has a more invested interest in understanding what their plan entails. Online web portals and home-accessible webinars can assist in communicating benefits and benefit help and solutions to dependents who may not have been able to attend a pre-open enrollment employee benefits meeting.
Companies differ in size, culture, diversity, and pay grade. HR departments need to adopt a salesman mentality and not think of their coworkers as just that, but rather as consumers. What’s the best way to reach them with benefit help solutions? What is essential that they know and what isn’t? Considering the demographic, what is the best strategy to communicate with them? With an ever-changing workforce and an ever-changing benefits landscape, it’s imperative to design new, creative, and diverse educational campaigns, because what’s the point of having and paying for something if you don’t know how to use it?
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