Almost as important as the benefits offerings you use to drive retention and attract talent are, equally as important is how you communicate those benefits to your staff. Yet, this is an area in which it’s easy to fall short — and to help ensure that doesn’t happen to you, wellness and health management software maker Keas has offered up the five biggest mistakes it sees employers making — as well as tips on how to avoid them.
Over the past decade, we’ve seen a trend of HR departments diversifying their benefits vendors in an effort to mitigate rising costs and give their employees the choice and flexibility they crave. This diversification definitely provides value, but it also leads to significant communication challenges.
Here are five common mistakes HR departments make when communicating HR benefits and some tips for avoiding them:
1. Open enrollment, open season
HR teams frequently send out a deluge of benefits information once a year, right around the time of open enrollment. The overwhelming amount of information can seem daunting to employees who put it in a drawer, or worse, in the trash, instead of perusing it carefully.
A more effective approach is to break that information down into more digestible chunks and dole them out regularly over the course of the year. Whether studying for a mid-term exam or reading up on healthcare plan options, people absorb and retain information better this way. The human brain can only take in so much at a time.
HR teams should forego the “cram session” model and provide ongoing learning opportunities. For example, by providing your employees a one-stop-shop portal accessible via the Web and their mobile phones, employees can receive information about their benefits throughout the year. Furthermore, an effective customer relationship management (CRM) system that’s part of a health management platform can be extremely helpful in that it can automate ongoing communications to your employees.
2. Uncoordinated communication
In addition to frequency, HR benefits communication also needs to be cohesive. It should be coordinated and consistent, which is not always easy when multiple vendors want to send information to your employees all year long. This is basically an invitation for employees to tune out and/or for important communication to get lost in the shuffle. As a result, the employees who need the services the most may miss out on important materials.
HR leaders can address this challenge by setting up a system so all HR communication is coordinated in one place. Thinking like a direct marketer, HR and benefits teams can partner with health management firms to determine the right cadence of messaging to drive engagement in health benefits.
3. Overlooking remote workers
By 2016, Forrester predicts that 63 million Americans (43 % of the workforce) will work from home. This means, businesses of every size have workers and teams distributed around the world. This means that HR communication has to extend to these people as well. Sending PDF files or offering a webinar does not cut it as this may reach only a small percentage of your remote population.
Fortunately, health management platforms provide a new and effective way to engage remote employees with their benefits. By providing an easy-to-use and consumer-friendly application, you can make it easy for your employees to access and engage with their health benefits regardless of where they are based. CRM systems can also make targeted benefits information and program information available to remote employees who may not have access to on-site health programs, but who can still take part in local programs or work with a digital coach to resolve their health challenges.
4. Irrelevant suggestions
More diversified benefits choices increases the likelihood that an employee will be able to find offerings that meet their unique needs. That said, greater choice also puts a greater burden of responsibility on the employee to sort through it all and figure out which programs are right for them.
Manually creating individual employee health profiles and matching them to relevant programs is a laborious, time-intensive process. Fortunately, there are now health management platforms that can do this automatically. These platforms integrate data across demographic profiles, health screenings, and activity in order to target the right messages to the right employee at the right time.
5. Ignoring outcomes for employees and employers
Tracking and accountability are essential when you are trying to promote good habits and behavior. Employees’ knowledge that they’re improving their health over a health baseline the company helped establish is highly motivating. Moreover, from the company perspective, it is important for measuring the impact of certain benefits programs.
Most benefits programs today are intended to improve a particular aspect of health, like nutrition coaching or smoking cessation programs, and 55% of employers currently offer biometric screenings as part of wellness incentive programs with a goal to benchmark and optimize population health.
This is great because screening generates a rich data set that can help identify health risks and connect employees with the specific programs they need and monitor their progress — in theory. The reality is that some employers are not taking full advantage of the data at their fingertips. It’s not closely tied to driving health outcomes, which means the benefits and wellbeing programs fail to offer true cost-saving value. By tracking progress and outcomes on an individual basis, and providing both intrinsic and extrinsic incentives along the way, employees will be more engaged in their benefits.
Benefits programs are only as valuable as what you do with them. Don’t let the opportunity to achieve significant cost savings by reducing what amounts to 70% of preventable costs pass you by.
Adena DeMonte is the senior director of marketing at Keas, the maker of a health management platform for employers. Keas also provides wellbeing programs, coaching, benefits integration, and wellness incentives to employers.
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