3 Tips to remind employees of the value of their workplace benefits

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A new decade serves as a natural reflection point to plan for the future, set new goals and reprioritize to focus on what matters most. For time-strapped working Americans, thinking about how to maximize their workplace benefits in the year ahead probably doesn’t rise to the top of their list — if it’s even on the list at all.

But employers should be focused year-round on helping employees take full advantage of the benefits they chose during open enrollment. According to industry research, on average, employees spend only 17 minutes electing their benefits during open enrollment. To provide some context, Netflix users spend an average of 18 minutes on any given day deciding what to watch. This could leave employers wondering how to get their employees to pay more attention and understand the value of their workplace benefits.

Tip #1: Clear, year-round communication is key to avoiding information overload during enrollment season.
Many employers focus the majority of their communication efforts only during enrollment season. Yes, it’s important to get your employees timely information when they’re preparing to select their benefits. However, sending information about all your benefits only during open enrollment is like cramming for a final exam. There’s too much information all at once, which can be overwhelming and lead to employees simply defaulting to last year’s benefits without giving a second thought to the rest of the benefits line-up. In the long run, this could lead to stress and the loss of time and money, if any employee has an unexpected health issue without the available product protections in place.

Newly released Voya data shows that nearly half (44%) of retirement plan participants have protection or insurance gaps in their coverage. Nearly one-third (32%) of retirement plan hardship withdrawals are due to unreimbursed medical expenses. If you want your employees to carefully consider all their workplace benefits to help with their physical and financial needs, a year-round communications campaign can help make a difference.

Send a reminder to employees about how to place a claim from time to time or share real-life examples of how different benefits can help. The more familiar and knowledgeable employees are about their workplace benefits ahead of enrollment season, the more likely they will be to elect additional supplemental offerings to cover any gaps in their health-care coverage when it comes time to enroll.

Tip #2: Take a multi-channel approach to communicating.
The generational differences of your employees and their preferences in how they receive information is changing. While Millennials are leading the way in digital communications, there is still a high demand for in-person conversations and printed materials. Don’t get bogged down in limiting your educational resources to one channel. A multi-channel approach allows you to reach more employees and offers flexibility for them to engage in the way they prefer.

For example, if you want to educate employees about the tax-advantages and benefits of health savings accounts (HSAs) to help offset the rising cost of health care, consider offering in-person educational seminars, online webinars or self-service videos. This gives your employees flexibility — so they can learn the information they need, in the way they prefer, at time when they will be most engaged. Your benefits service provider can help design and support a multi-channel program that communicates the right amount of information in the right way. Every employer has different preferences and unique benefits programs and goals — so it’s important to be strategic in how, what and when this information is delivered to your employees.

Tip #3: Lose the insurance jargon, speak in “Saturday language.”
At the most simplistic level — no matter what approach you use — if your employees don’t understand, they cannot make informed decisions. The language we use to communicate matters. Consider revising your employee benefits materials to speak in “Saturday language” to make it easier for them to clearly understand their options, take action and feel confident in their decision.

For example, when a person leaves their employer, typically they are bombarded with a ton of information about what options they have to continue their coverage as an individual. In the industry, this is commonly referred to as “port and convert.” After conducting our own focus groups at Voya, we discovered most people who receive these packets of information — which can be several pages long and full of intimidating language — are often left confused and unclear on what to do next.

As a result of this feedback, Voya Employee Benefits simplified its “port and covert” process to help improve the customer experience. In addition to talking in “Saturday language,” we reduced our initial 10-page packet down to a succinct one or two page letter. We now offer online support tools that clearly explain the next steps. In the end, words matter and can directly influence employees’ knowledge, understanding and utilization of their workplace benefits.

Final Thoughts:
While there is no one-size fits-all approach when trying to educate, remind and engage your employees about their workplace benefits, it’s important that you continue to prioritize. U.S. health-care spending is forecasted to grow by 5.8% on an average annual rate basis from 2012 to 2022, according to industry research. The convergence of health and wealth has shifted the workplace benefits landscape, and more working Americans are now turning to their employers for help to pay out-of-pocket expenses not covered by their health insurance plan. Therefore, as 2020 continues to ramp up and we turn the page on a new decade, take this opportunity to take an honest look at your communications strategy.

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