We know that when it comes to health benefits, employees wantchoices. And they expect their employers to help them understandthose choices. Studies show that people are more satisfied withtheir jobs, and less likely to look for other employmentopportunities, if they believe not only that their employer offersgood benefits, but that the benefits are well-communicated.

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Cost of turnover vs. communication

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Effective benefit communication requires employers to investtime and resources to educate employees. But with the right help,that investment can be modest. Never forget to weigh the cost ofgood communication efforts against that of having to replaceemployees. A United States Department of Labor study revealed thatwhen an employee leaves, it costs the business one-third of thatperson's annual salary to identify, hire and train areplacement.

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Tips for effective communication

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1. Understand employee benefit needs – A key toemployee satisfaction is to offer benefits that people need andwant. Survey employees to find out about their:

  • plan preferences
  • awareness of and satisfaction with the level of currentbenefits
  • understanding and use of existing benefits
  • suggestions for benefits to consider for the followingyear
  • favorite ways to receive benefits information

Gather utilization trends from your broker and insurance salesrepresentative, so you know the services that are most widely usedas well as those services employees may not be aware of or maymisunderstand.

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2. Communicate details early – Several weeksbefore employees are to enroll in new benefits, provide plandetails. Map out the communication process so they understand whatto expect. List dates when the enrollment period opens and closes,and explain the ways they can find out more about the coverageoptions. Other suggestions:

  • Family needs – List information employees will need to knowwhen choosing plans, such as guidelines for dependent eligibility;whether dependents will need glasses, contacts or orthodontia; orwhether new family members need benefits.
  • Mix up communications – Skip the one-size-fits-allcommunication style. Use a blend of traditional and trendingcommunication options to reach employees, such as:

  • packet mailings
  • informational meetings
  • bulletin board announcements
  • lunch and learn sessions
  • newsletter articles
  • YouTube videos
  • Q & As, charts and diagrams on your benefitswebsite
  • web seminars
  • blogs
  • social media messages
  • Personalize messages – Explain how benefit choices will affectemployees' lives. If possible, categorize information intodemographic groups.

    • Feature stories from key employee leaders, such as what theydiscovered about their coverage or benefits that made a differenceto their families. Incorporate comments and stories in Facebookposts and employee blogs.
    • Avoid using benefits or insurance jargon.
  • Provide definitions – Describe differences in plan designs,such as voluntary options vs. employer-paid benefits.
  • Explain changes in coverage – If benefits have changed from theprevious year, explain the reason and identify what's new.
  • List contacts – Provide a list of team members who employeescan contact with questions or feedback.
  • 3. Repeat information – Asecret to a successful benefits program is to regularly repeatinformation. Unfortunately, only 28 percent of employerscommunicate benefits information throughout the year.

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    After the enrollment period, employees often forget the detailscommunicated about their benefits. Throughout the year, offersuggestions for employees on how to get the most from theirbenefits, such as taking advantage of preventive screenings. Remindthem of the value of their benefits, about deductible and copaycosts, and maximum coverage amounts. Repeat stories of howemployees use their benefits. Identify popular coverage options aswell as services that often are overlooked. Try to anticipate theirquestions and concerns, be sure to deliver answers, and providemore information than they expect.

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    Do the above suggestions sound like a lot of work? Yourbroker and your insurance carrier representative should be able tohelp you with your communications, from the planning stages to thecontent.

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    Enjoy the rewards of benefits communication

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    Developing and implementing an effective benefit communicationprogram can be challenging. It takes time to map out messages andidentify the right communication tools to use. But your effortswill pay off. A strong benefits communication and education programcan strengthen employees' satisfaction with their jobs, leading tohigher productivity and performance. To ease the load, work withyour broker and insurance carrier representative. If they're goodat what they do, they will be willing and able to help.

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    Michael Scheetz is vice president– group marketing for Ameritas, headquartered in Lincoln, Neb.Scheetz joined Ameritas in 2011 and has worked in the insuranceindustry for more than 15 years. Currently he serves on theeducation committee for the National Association of DentalPlans. For more information about Ameritas dental andvision, visit ameritasinsight.com orcontact [email protected].

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