In today’s tight labour markets, there is a lot of discussion about the best ways to attract and retain personnel. Human Resources and Finance are working together to find ways to get more from their compensation budgets. One of the simplest and most cost efficient ways to improve employee experience, increase loyalty, and improve retention is to communicate the who, what, where, when, why, and how of your company’s benefits plan.
Every year the Sanofi Canada Healthcare Survey explores the composition and perceptions of benefit offerings from both an employer and employee perspective. One of the takeaways from the 2019 survey is that when systems are confusing or plan information is scarce, employees become frustrated.
Every plan administrator has, no doubt, heard complaints about the lousy benefits plan due to a denied claim or an unexpected out-of-pocket expense. These types of complaints can be minimized with a strong communication strategy.
How we communicate information to employees is as important as why. There are numerous ways to achieve this, but we believe a multi-pronged approach yields the best results.
Build a Benefits Plan That Employees Want
Effective benefits communication begins before a plan is updated or implemented. Understanding the needs of your workforce and how those needs differ among generations and household composition ensures that your company receives the most bang for its benefits buck.
Keys steps when starting or updating a benefits plan are:
- Determining how you want your compensation philosophy to reflect your company’s wider goals
- Surveying employees to understand which benefits (vacation, flex time, massage therapy, financial wellness) are most important to them
- Working with your advisor to understand where your existing plan is meeting those goals and where it is not.
- Working with your advisor to create a plan that allocates your compensation budget in a cost-efficient manner that minimizes risk and maximizes employee satisfaction
The Onboarding Process
Whether you are introducing a new employee to your firm or introducing a new or revised benefit plan to your staff, the following steps help employees better understand the investment you are making in their well-being.
Ask your advisor to provide employee information sessions for new hires and refresher sessions periodically. Doing so keeps employees up to date with any changes in provincial legislation or policy.
Whenever possible, have a member of your HR team provide a brief summary of the benefits basics to new hires. We both know that any employee booklet provided by an insurance company is unlikely to be read!
It’s also important that your plan administrator understands the benefits and is comfortable fielding general inquiries from employees.
Some other important aspects of the onboarding process include:
- Use of screenshots, slide decks, or infographics to convey salient points.
- Sending information home to dependents. Making sure that a spouse knows how to access the benefit offerings will increase satisfaction
- Creating and posting a FAQ document
Leveraging Technology Increases Employee Understanding and Utilization of Benefits
The ubiquity of smartphones has helped insurance carriers develop easy-to-use apps and reminders for employees using their benefits. Many providers such as SunLife and Manulife offer mobile apps that allow easy processing of claims on the go.
Insurance carriers and other service providers have invested heavily in resources to help employees make the most of their benefits plans. Often these resources are free and available to everyone—not just plan members.
Employers can also set up texts or emails to send at regular intervals with reminders about how the plan works, how to access forms, or to make requests to update information such as dependent status.
Gamification Increases Employee Engagement
Gamification’s effectiveness in getting people engaged and forming new habits has caused people to gamify many parts of their lives, from healthy eating to brushing their teeth. Its popularity has trickled into the workplace and spread as far as benefits communication. Some insurance carriers such as Greenshield offer this type of program to their clients
One way to gamify your benefits communication is to have a short quiz at the end of one of your refresher meetings. Offer prizes and rewards to those who can answer the most questions correctly. Doing so will keep employees engaged throughout the talk and reinforce their learning.
Consider including a “value of your benefits” calculation when issuing T-4 slips. Most employees have little or no understanding of the cost of vacation time, health benefits, and perks and are surprised and grateful upon learning the value of the additional investment made by an employer. The communication can be generic in order to avoid comparisons between staff members.
For those employers offering a retirement or savings plan, financial stress tends to go down as account balances increase. Consider implementing automatic enrollment or automatic annual increases and explain the benefits of saving just a little more.
Finally, hosting lunch-and-learns on wellness related topics specific to physical, mental, or financial health and explaining how the benefits’ programme helps support these areas can reduce stress and help your team members to see the value in their benefits.
Investing in improved communication is a powerful way for employers to demonstrate that they care. Taking the time to help employees understand the tools that are available to help prevent illness as well as to support and assist in times of crises directly improves retention and reduces absenteeism and presenteeism.