As companies are shifting responsibility for health and financial decisions to their employees, both brokers and HR managers need to take a different approach. According to Jennifer Benz, founder of Benz Communications, a HR and benefits communications strategy boutique, this changes what it means to be successful.
“Clearly, the era of ‘we’ll take care of everything for you’ is over and ‘we’ll help you find your way’ is here to stay. That means companies want to help employees make good short-term decisions and see the longer-term picture of how health and financial security stack up," Benz says.
The first step to getting people to pay attention to their benefits information is to make it accessible. The best way to make it accessible is to put it on the Internet—outside of a company’s firewall. More than 78 percent of Americans now use the internet—up 152 percent since 2000—and 66 percent have a broadband connection at home. And employees want their benefits on the Internet: 80 percent of Gen X, 75 percent of Gen Y and 66 percent of younger baby boomers.
A benefits website provides employees with a single go-to resource for all of their benefits information. Branded by the company, it reinforces the value of benefits. Also, a benefits website dramatically simplifies and improves communications by giving employees and their families one place to go for all questions and education. This is a key resource for getting families engaged in benefits. Families drive 60-70 percent of health care costs and spouses make 70 percent of family health care decisions. Hiding benefits information on an intranet behind a firewall keeps it out of reach of those driving benefits decisions, use and cost.
The next step is to communicate with employees year-round. Reminding them about benefits once a year is not enough. Communicating only during annual enrollment is not sufficient to get employees actively engaged in decisions about their health and finances. They need to understand their plans and participate in them all year long. Remember: your success depends on their actions—and their actions depend on your guidance.
You don’t have to do it alone. To keep your communications going, use every resource at your disposal. There is a vast amount of free and low-cost resources available. Search the Internet. Read trade publications. Ask your consultants, brokers and vendors what they have and know about, and have high expectations of them. Use information and services that support your benefits strategy.