Communicating Benefits to Remote Workers

According to a recent survey by the International Foundation of Employee Benefits Plans:

  • Only 19% of employers report that their employees have a “high level” of understanding of their benefits
  • 80% of employers state that their employees don’t even read the benefits collateral
  • Approximately 50% of employees don’t understand the employee benefit materials

With continued increases to the cost of healthcare, employers changing insurance carriers, changes in benefits, and implementation of consumer driven health plans, communication is critical.  In fact, 65% of employers say employee education is a high priority and 40% of employers now have a budget focused solely on employee benefits.  There is simply too much at risk for employees not to understand their benefits. Accompanied with the fact that 4.7 million workers are now working remotely, strategically communicating with employees regarding their benefits needs to be even more of a “creative” process and can seem like wrangling cats.

It is so important to effectively communicate benefits to remote employees because of the positive correlation that exists between effective communication and the perceived value of benefits from employees. Here are the top 10 strategies.

Top 10 Benefit Strategies

  1. Benefits need to be communicated year-round, not just during open enrollment, to keep benefits forefront for the employee 
  2. Leverage word of mouth using trusted managers, champions and/or peers on-site that are trained on how to effectively communicate benefits. When choosing champions or peers, remember employees who are “early adopters” are your best picks.
  3. Implement “word of mouth” strategies and foster a culture of trust and open dialogue where employees explain and share their own benefits experience and how it might help their colleagues, i.e. “I used telehealth for pink eye which saved me time, money and stress!”
  4. Use short videos or live/recorded webinars to employees to explain benefits (link one of our videos)
  5. Since the average individual spends an average of 4.7 hours a day on their smartphone, there is an opportunity for employers to capture employees’ attention through social media, such as Facebook, Blogs and YouTube, to help with communications
  6. Develop surveys and focus groups to get feedback from employees on the best way to reach both them and their spouses/dependents
  7. Create your communications while considering
    • Language barriers
    • Life stage
    • Multiple generations
    • Shift workers
  8. Create educational assessments, i.e. “How well do you understand your benefits?” and reward completion with incentives such as prize drawings, PTO or health savings accounts contributions
  9. Engage spouses/dependents with communications especially as it pertains to employee assistance programs, expert medical opinion services and carrier programs
  10. Communicate using simplified language (not insurance jargon) and multiple communication channels to reach different demographics, ideas include:
    • Snail mail
    • Email
    • Print distributed on-site
    • Internal websites
    • External websites
    • Social media (e.g., Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc.)
    • Games
    • Videos
    • Texts

Distance Learning

Though effective benefits communications is essential to all firms, distance challenges creates an even greater need. Communications are essential to not only benefit satisfaction, but also for knowing how to access all benefits and what for.

When considering a “distance” situation, where a group of employees are not in working in the same location, a company needs to rely heavily on digital forms of communication (look at #5 in particular). Futhermore, it pays to have a “work from home” policy in place. This can help to set a standard for when and how your team is communicating. This will to understand the best method of benefit communications (i.e. hosting a group meeting on Microsoft “teams”).