John Porter once said, “People underestimate their capacity for change. There is never a right time to do a difficult thing.” Although brokers’ jobs become more demanding every year, this past one put Porter’s words to the test. From an unforgettable pandemic to new tech-driven lifestyles, we each faced our unique challenges.

For so long, brokers have worn many hats while providing a number of services to clients: carrier negotiations, plan design, compliance, and HR consulting, to name a few. But in the last couple of years, your clients have a whole new set of expectations and demands. They’re investing more than ever into their benefits packages, and they’re looking for new ways to support their workforce through a tough time. 

And even though they’ve upped their investment, employees are still in the dark about their benefits and often unintentionally make poor benefits decisions that are costing them—and their employers—money. 

That means the pressure is on. You’re no longer just a plan designer; you’re also a financial advisor, a talent expert, and most importantly, a benefits communication pro.

Benefits investments are rising — so is employee confusion

According to new research, 90% of HR and C-suite executives are increasing their investment in health and wellness. And that’s great news! You and your clients are working together to provide more resources for employees after an especially challenging year.

The bad news? Employees aren’t getting the memo. Only half of employees say they understand their benefits, and one in five say they want more benefits education.

And who can blame them? With so much industry jargon — FSA, HSA, co-pay, oh my! — and outdated communication channels (like 20-page printed benefits guides), no wonder employees aren’t finding the information they need. 

Confusion comes at a huge cost

That lack of benefits understanding comes at an enormous cost for employees, and for your clients. In fact, company leaders believe 50% of their organization’s health care spending is wasted due to employee confusion. That’s right, fifty percent. And that’s on top of all of the added health care expenses brought on by a global pandemic

Are your alarm bells going off yet? That wasted health care spend means that your clients’ increased benefits investment has been … well, mostly for naught. They’re putting more money into an expanded benefits package that employees aren’t using due to confusion—and it’s all adding up to cash down the drain.

So this is your window of opportunity this year: to prove your value, help your clients maximize their benefits investment, and reduce wasted spend once and for all. How can you make that happen? By increasing your focus on strong benefits communication.

3 tips for creating excellent client communication support

A strong communication strategy is the key to boosting benefits engagement and stopping unnecessary health care spending. With the correct information, your clients and their employees can make more educated decisions and feel confident in their choices. 

So, how can you up your benefits communication game? Here are a few ideas:

Help employees choose the right plans. 

Open enrollment isn’t the only time you should be educating employees about their benefits, but there’s a reason we focus so much on this time of year. In fact, 93% of employees default to the same old health plans every year — not because it’s necessarily the best plan for them, but because it’s what they know. It’s the easiest. 

And that comes at a huge cost. A lot of employees are either unknowingly over-insuring themselves, or they’re not understanding the downsides of a cost-saving plan. In fact, wrong plan choices could cost your clients up to $2,100 per employee. 

The key to helping employees choose the right plans? Personalization and transparency. Use educational tools that will show employees which plans are the right choice for them, based on their own unique health and family scenarios. And show them the math, too. Break down exactly how much they personally should expect to pay when they enroll in each plan. 

Intercept employees in moments that matter

Of course, educating employees when they’re choosing their benefits during open enrollment is important, but it’s not enough. We need to engage employees throughout the year and provide ongoing education when they’re using their benefits, not just choosing them. 

So often, we’ve focused our benefits communication around a calendar. Maybe you send out email campaigns about EAPs in May during Mental Health Awareness Month. Or you celebrate National 401(k) Day by sending out reminders to save more for retirement before the end of the year.

But the hard truth is that employees don’t suddenly need mental health support during Mental Health Awareness Month. They’re not suddenly more motivated to save for retirement on 401(k) Day. In fact, they’re not paying attention to their benefits until they personally need to use them. 

Related: Changing benefits priorities highlight growing focus on employees

So figure out ways to educate employees when they’re already engaged. Maybe it’s when they’re filing a claim, or adding more money to their HSAs. Use those moments as an opportunity to nudge them and say, “Hey, here’s how much you should really be saving in your account to cover your deductible.” Or, “Hey, we noticed you might be overpaying for your prescriptions. Here’s how you can save more.” 

Lean on technology

When asked how they’d like to learn about their benefits, employees say they’d most prefer an interactive tool that explains their benefits and offers personalized recommendations, or a one-on-one consultation with a benefits advisor.

But you and I both know that you don’t have time to sit down with every single employee, which is why 70% of benefits consultants say technology has increased their overall efficiency in the last year. So the good news is that many of you are already relying on technology to educate employees on their benefits. 

And it’s working. In fact, 85% of employees say they have a better understanding of their benefits after using a personalized tool, and benefits pros have been able to decrease the amount of questions they receive by 50%. So especially as workforces become more decentralized and companies are embracing remote work, virtual benefits communication is your friend. 

Better client outcomes are at your fingertips

As we adjust to the “new norm” in our personal lives, the insurance industry is vigorously adjusting, too. You have a lot on your plate as you adapt to new regulations, digitization, a quickly changing talent economy and more. 

But here’s the kicker. Despite all that new responsibility, building a stronger communications strategy is still very doable. And your efforts will result in measurable outcomes for you and your clients. From health care cost savings to increases in benefits usage to happier, healthier employees, benefits education isn’t just a good idea — bit could be the very thing that helps you retain clients and win new business. 

Chad Schneider grew up in Woodland Hills, CA with the dreams to be the next Steven Spielberg and winning an academy award. Upon graduating business school, he realized that his becoming Steven Spielberg was a long shot and started selling insurance. An internship turned into 14 years with Aflac.  Chad subsequently ran sales for Code SixFour, and now serves as Jellyvision’s VP of Channel Sales. When Chad is not working he enjoys movies, eating deep-dish pizza, playing foosball with co-workers and traveling.