A well informed employee is a self-sufficient employee. Our goal should be to bring employees up to a level of understanding and appreciation of the benefits they are offered from the company. We as HR professionals can arm employees with knowledge about their benefit plans which in turn allows them to better allow them to utilize their benefits. We are in the midst of incredible healthcare reform and if this is confusing to you as an HR professional, imagine what level of confusion this has caused with employees. Before we are able to communicate the changes in healthcare plans we must educate employees with the basics of benefits.
Pitfalls of Benefits Communication:
- Jumping right in to specifics of the plan before your employees understand the basics
- Using acronyms without explaining what they mean
- Moving on to the next topic without ensuring all employees have and understanding of what you just shared with them.
How to Best Communicate Benefits Information:
- Explain the differences between: PPO, HMO, POS, etc.
- If your plan has an “Open Access” HMO explain the difference between that and a traditional HMO
- Distinguish between co-pays, co-insurance, deductibles, out of pocket max, etc
- Once the definitions of the “nuts and bolts” are fully understood by the employees, proceed to the particulars of your company’s plan
- Explain the what/when open enrollment is and provide examples of qualifying events
In the simplest terms you want to make sure that you use terminology that your employee understands and if they don’t, use this time to educate them. Once they have the foundation, you can build on that with the intricacies of your plan. Once your employees understand benefits lingo, then you will be able effectively communicate the changes from plan year to plan year and the reasons why the plans have changed or not changed. If you are able to articulate why your employees’ cost share has increased they will be more likely to accept that news. On the flip side, when you have good news to share they will be more appreciative of the effort the company takes to provide a good benefits package. Employers spend a lot of money each year on benefits so let’s educate employees so they can take full advantage of what their plans have to offer!