If you’re like most HR professionals, you breathed a sigh of relief when annual enrollment ended. No more meetings, no more reviewing communication materials for nine months. Not so fast! Effective communication (that engages employees and helps them see the full value of their benefits), should be an ongoing conversation. And it can help you avoid the mad rush of communicating employee benefits in the last three months of the year.
More reasons for regular communication
Depending on when you conduct enrollment, the months leading up to it are optimal for continuing benefits education with your employees. They aren’t rushing to read a benefits guide and make elections by a deadline. You aren’t exhausted from negotiating renewal contracts and getting materials to employees on time.
Year-round communications gives employees a chance to learn about your offerings at a more leisurely pace and helps create a level of comfort around benefits and how they work. And if you’re making major changes to benefits, it makes sense to introduce them sooner rather than later, especially if there’s a steep learning curve (e.g. Health Savings Accounts (HSAs), Health Reimbursement Arrangements (HRAs), etc.). Taking action earlier gives employees the time to understand the complexities before changes take effect.
So how do you communicate benefits year-round?
It doesn’t need to be a major production and can actually be done in three steps:
- Determine the outlets you want to use to keep employee benefits information in front of your workforce, whether it’s through email, posters, videos, tent tables, face-to-face conversations or a combination thereof.
- Create a schedule of what benefits information you want to share with employees, how you’ll do it and when.
- Find the resources to help you create and deploy your communications. As you develop your communications, keep the these things in mind: Stick with one or two topics for each communication (unless you’re doing a newsletter); keep your content short (use bullet points where you can) and engaging—let employees know what’s in it for them up front and early on; avoid attaching files to emails; and if you can use short videos to communicate information, do it.
In terms of a schedule, you might send an educational email the first Tuesday of each month. Information can be obtained from your carriers, your broker or through various online resources (remember to be careful about copyrighted information). Typically, financial education is a good topic for the first quarter, so you could focus on flexible spending accounts, HSA or HRA information, along with your 401(k) or other retirement programs, and go from there, with the last months focusing on open enrollment.
If your plans include HSAs, keep in mind that employees can always benefit from more education about how they work. Case studies are especially effective, as are “Top 10 HSA Benefits” or “Did You Know?” pieces. Again, you can get most anything you need from your broker or HSA provider.
The new plan year is underway with insurance cards tucked into wallets or a phone tap away. But just because your employee benefits program is all buttoned up doesn’t mean employees know how to make the most of it. There’s a good chance that many still have questions, so it’s up to you to address them and keep the conversation going from here on out.