By - May 31, 2018

Benefits Communications Path to Change—Webinar Q&A

Webinar: Benefits Communications Path to Change

I really enjoyed facilitating our May webinars with EBN and SHRM and introducing our attendees to the Benefits Communications Path to Change.

We talked about how change is difficult and that your employees are all at different stages of the path to embracing change. Their journey is not linear, but can be guided with the right communications along the way. In the webinars, I showed examples of benefits communication tactics, survey hacks, bench-marking, and  deep-dived into a process you can use to improve your open enrollment results. Here’s a visual to remind you of the 6 Stages: Benefits Path to Change Infographic.

We ran out of time during the question and answers section of the webinars, so I thought it would be helpful to answer them in a blog post.

What should smaller companies do? 

We had several questions around this topic and we recognize that not all companies have the larger budgets of Fortune 500 companies.

Even companies with smaller budgets can help their employees by communicating important benefits information throughout the year. Decision support software doesn’t have to be expensive and can pay for itself if your employees aren’t currently choosing the most financially beneficial plan for their needs.

If you talk with some vendors and still feel like you can’t afford the software, focus on the communications. Make sure your employees know the open enrollment dates, what’s changing and why they should care. If you can’t provide personalized recommendations to your employees, you could still give a good description for your plans for example an HDHP plan could be described as “Great if your medical costs are low and are looking to save on taxes with an HSA.”

What should we do if our plans aren’t finalized early enough to start communication further ahead of time?

The earlier you finalize your plans, the more specific your early communications can be. Of course, pushing to get plans finalized early is ideal but not always feasible, so work with what you have. The purpose of early communications is to start moving employees down the Path of Change earlier. When people have enough time to learn about and process change, you can have more employees entering Stage 3, Factual Details, around open enrollment time rather than trying to push people through all three initial stages at the same time.  Here are some examples:

  • If you know open enrollment dates, start talking about those and sending calendar reminders.
  • Are you introducing an HDHP plan for the first time? Then start with education about HSAs and dispel the myths.
  • If you’re going to introduce a decision support tool let employees know they’ll have extra help this year.

How could we communicate with management that we need to be more proactive about communications? Based on the timeline presented, it appears our communication is a bit delayed where it could possibly be sooner.

If you have survey results or hold small employee round tables to gather impact, your senior management will believe the words of the employees. Better yet, if you follow the exercise we showed during the improvement deep dive, your methodology and analysis will show senior management, perhaps, that the critical Employee Factor is communicating earlier to employees.

How do you provide incentives for surveys if the feedback is anonymous?

This can be tricky depending on what Survey Software you use. Our suggestion is to end the survey with a link to a form or survey for employees to put in their name and email to register for the incentive.

How much of an incentive do you suggest offering for survey completion?

The first thing to consider is you might not even need a survey. Your employee base might be engaged and happy to help influence the future of their benefits. You could try a survey without an incentive (just make it short and consider asking your management to follow up with employees as an extra push.) If you don’t see the results you’d hoped for, you can try an incentive. Pick an incentive that is universally desirable for your population—for example, not everyone would appreciate gift cards to a certain restaurant, but everyone could use money, credit gift cards or a gift card to a store with a wide selection. To help with your budget and to not encourage “pay to play” you might want to consider just having a few larger prizes as a raffle and they are entered after completing the survey.

Do you think there is a potential to over-communicate or spam associates with communications?

Yes, if you communicate too often, your employees might stop opening your emails and direct mail. But it’s not just about the frequency. It’s about being concise and targeted about your communications. For example, maybe you provide an overview of all the benefits one week and then deep dive into something like why an HSA can help you save on your taxes another week, then remind them of open enrollment with a link to the tool another week, etc. Sending the same content over and over again would be overkill. Other companies have combated this feeling by having some mailings be “opt in” so employees specifically say they want more detailed information about, say, how to better use their health plan.

Realistically, how many companies know what the benefit plans are going to be this far ahead?

It all depends.  Some of our clients know most of their plan details 6 months before open enrollment while others are more like 3 months ahead.  The important thing is to communicate. In typical organizations that have open enrollment in October, the type of change on the table should be known during early Summer. You don’t need exact premium rates in order to start communicating. If your organization is making decisions on what plans to offer only a few weeks ahead of open enrollment, then escalating this as not a best practice could help provide more time each year.

How far in advance of open enrollment would you suggest the open enrollment system/tools be made available? 

We’ve found that offering decision support software at least two weeks before open enrollment can increase employee engagement significantly. Of course, having it available throughout open enrollment and afterwards is important as well.

Please Contact Us with any questions or Request a Demo to see our  personalized decision support software.

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