Navigating Benefits

Employee Benefits Communication: Best Practices for Change Management

Posted by March 16, 2017

In any organization, how you handle employee benefits communication can affect your organization’s employee morale and participation in group plans. It is not unusual for benefits programs to change each year, in keeping with legal requirements and competitive compensation structures. These changes can also signal increases in premium rates and a different network of providers if a new health care plan is selected.

When employees find out that they have to pay a higher premium for their health insurance or that they need to change their primary care physician, their first instinct may be to panic. But if you successfully communicate these benefits changes, you can help employees feel reassured and empowered as they move into the open enrollment period.

Employee Benefits Changes Are a Fact of Life

In 2016, the average health care premium rate increased by 3.6 percent over 2015 costs, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. These rising premiums have forced some employers to allocate a larger share of the costs for group benefits to employees. Effective employee benefits communication can help soften changes like these, so that organizations can maintain high levels of employee morale and retention.

Here are four tips to help you successfully discuss benefits changes with your employees.

Communicate Early and Often

Employees deserve to know about potential changes to group benefits plans as early as possible. Make it a priority to get important benefits information out to employees well in advance of open enrollment dates. Educate frontline supervisors on how this year’s benefits package will be better and different so they can reassure employees of the value the company places on their well-being.

Honor Different Communication Styles

Employee benefits communication works best when it takes into consideration the unique communication styles and preferences of employees. Today there are five very distinct generations of people in most workplaces, each communicating in different ways. For example, younger employees may prefer to get their benefits information delivered via text messages and emails, while more seasoned employees may prefer face-to-face meetings and printed total compensation statements.

Explain the Reasons Behind Any Changes

When reviewing changes in employee benefits, remember to cover why key decisions were made. Employees generally appreciate and understand an honest explanation of what prompted the company to choose a different health insurance plan. Don’t try to candy-coat the decision; just deliver the facts. If your employees understand how the decision was made and why it benefits the entire company, they may receive it more positively.

Provide Support and Information to All Employees

Be sure to equip employees with information and resources so they can get the maximum benefit from their new insurance and retirement savings plans. A recent study found that 59 percent of employees surveyed needed help managing retirement savings, but only 21 percent actively sought education and guidance about their plans.

Do your part to guide employees. Hand out brochures with details of any additional perks they can take advantage of. Host a wellness week, and have representatives from your health and dental plans on hand to answer any questions.

Most importantly, make employee benefits communication an open-door policy. Assign a central person on your leadership team to field future questions and provide support with claims. Keep your communication clear and regular as your company brings in new hires, as you make changes to your benefits package, and as you enter the open enrollment period. Be sure you have a system for effectively communicating benefits in every situation.

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