As the current healthcare system continues to transition to more consumer-driven healthcare plans, employers will begin to see a unique reaction from employees. They’re hungry for information on benefits options, but they also feel overwhelmed and confused.
In order for employees to find a balance and become successful healthcare consumers, it’s smart business for employers to provide them with the education and resources necessary for benefits support.
The 2014 Aflac WorkForces Report found that 58 percent of workers at small businesses said they think their employer would educate them about changes to their healthcare coverage as a result of new healthcare legislation. Yet, only 30 percent of small-business employers said they feel extremely or very prepared to address changes to the healthcare system in 2014.
This is not necessarily surprising. As a small-business owner, it can be challenging to educate employees about benefits when the role of benefits professional falls solely on you. You may also feel as overwhelmed as your employees, but you don’t have to. You can become a benefits-savvy employer by taking the time to educate yourself on the benefits your company offers and appropriately communicating your benefits knowledge with workers.
Utilize Outside Resources Like Insurance Brokers and Agents
Even though the new healthcare law is complex, you don’t need to navigate these murky waters alone. Seek advice and input from your benefits provider. Brokers and agents can explain your company’s benefits package and provide valuable insight on products employees want and need.
For example, according to the study, 62 percent of small-business employees indicated they see a growing need for voluntary benefits options in 2014 compared to previous years. Your broker or agent will be able to educate you on new products and help you further understand what your business already offers and where there could be room for improvement.
Remember, if you don’t understand the benefits your company is offering then it’s likely your workers don’t either.
How to Effectively Communicate Your Benefits Knowledge With Employees
Once you have the knowledge, it’s time to pass it on to your employees. The tips below will help boost employee engagement through targeted and effective communication.
Communicate Early and Often
Healthcare coverage decisions are challenging, even for those employees who think they are educated. Communicate your company’s benefits offering early enough so that employees have time to make sound decisions about their healthcare coverage.
It’s also crucial to repeat yourself. The study showed that only 34 percent of small-business employers communicated about benefits three or more times in the past year.
One email, one meeting or one letter is not enough if you’re hoping for your message to stick with employees.
Choose the Right Platform
Invest the time to figure out how your employees would like to receive benefits information. Simply polling your employees to see what method – whether it’s face to face, via email or on paper – is most beneficial for them could make a big difference.
Break Down the “Alphabet Soup” of Health Care Terms
No matter how you communicate your benefits information, make sure to explain health savings accounts (HSAs), flexible spending accounts (FSAs), and other healthcare jargon. Once employees fully understand what they’re being offered, it will be easier for them to make the right healthcare decisions.
Why is it Necessary to Communicate Benefits at all?
Employees who are not educated about their benefits options will find it hard to make the best healthcare decisions for their individual situation. Making uninformed benefits decisions could leave employees unequipped to handle increasing out-of-pocket medical expenses.
This can ignite a costly cycle considering the study found that 70 percent of small-business employees wouldn’t be able to adjust to the large financial costs association with a serious injury or illness.
For employers, a lack of healthcare insurance education could cause a negative impact on employee retention and add unnecessary company costs. The study found that 57 percent of small business employees are likely to accept jobs with slightly lower compensation but better benefits.
Not to mention, when employees are uneducated on their benefits options, it can lead to companies paying additional expenses because their workers have opted in to a plan that over-serves their needs.
Open enrollment is just around the corner and this means the time for benefits education is now.
Being a benefits-savvy small business owner won’t only lay the foundation for inspiring your employees to become better health care consumers, but it can also positively affect your company’s bottom line and help you retain your talented workers.
Employee Photo via Shutterstock