Communicate Benefits at Key Points in Employees’ Lives
Your benefit offerings are the result of intensive time, research and resources. It’s all worth it when employees appreciate the value of benefits and use them to improve their health, retirement and well-being.
Unfortunately, many employees aren’t taking the time to engage with their options. SHRM reports that 73% of employees spend less than an hour making their benefits selections during open enrollment. Over 40% take less than 30 minutes.
When employees don’t understand their offerings, key benefits can go underutilized. And a large portion of their compensation package is underappreciated. According to a March 2023 news release from the U.S. Department of Labor, benefits make up an estimated 31% of total compensation.
The lack of time spent on open enrollment reveals the need for better benefits communications. The good news is benefits aren’t just a once-a-year proposition.
Promoting your benefits throughout the year is a start. But you can also find success by targeting benefits communications at key points in your employees’ lives.
Why you should target your benefits communications
By communicating at inflection points in employees’ lives, you increase the odds of engagement and utilization. Increased benefits usage leads to wins for you and your employees.
Your organization gets more out of its financial investment in benefits. This includes improved employee attraction and retention efforts. Your employees have a greater appreciation for the value those benefits provide. And when employees take full advantage of benefit offerings, they are more likely to see improvements in their physical, mental and financial well-being.
Targeting communications to key points in your employees’ lives creates nearly limitless possibilities. The adoption of a dog or cat is a great time to send a reminder email about voluntary pet insurance. When an employee’s child goes off to college, promote your employee assistance program (EAP) as a resource for loneliness, substance use, counseling and other topics that could benefit both the employee and their child.
As an employer, you don’t run the risk of overcommunicating. Employees’ chief complaint with benefits communications is that they don’t occur enough, reports SHRM.
Identifying opportunities to increase engagement
Though the possibilities are endless, you need to start somewhere. The following examples are big life events that could benefit from targeted communications:
- New address
- Change in marital status
- Birth or adoption
- Child turning 26
- Employee nearing age 65
When an employee notifies you of an address change, it should trigger new communications. A move might accompany an event such as a job promotion, marriage or divorce, or the birth or adoption of a child. These circumstances can help you capture employees’ interest. Employees are more likely to pay attention to benefits that can help them during periods of transition. Send reminders about your health and retirement plans, life insurance, beneficiary coverage and related topics.
A change in address could be particularly pertinent for remote employees. If your health plan is based on geography, you’ll need to figure out coverage options for an employee who moves outside that region. It can also trigger tax implications and necessitate changes to your health coverage and remote work policies.
Change in marital status
A change in marital status is another key time to communicate with your employees. Remind them to add or amend beneficiary information to retirement accounts and life insurance policies. These communications can engage them with important features and reinforce the value of your benefits. Likewise, updating documents with emergency contact and beneficiary information can lead employees to reassess their health coverage and voluntary benefits.
Birth or adoption
As with a change in marital status, the birth or adoption of a child can lead employees to reevaluate their health care and retirement plan priorities. It’s also a key time to prove to employees your commitment to compliance. For example, employees typically have 30 days to enroll a newborn or adopted child. Many might assume this happens automatically, without realizing they need to take steps such as providing a birth certificate.
A birth or adoption is also a time to highlight your parental leave policy. Leading up to the birth or adoption, communicate key details clearly. Include information such as eligibility, steps needed to take leave, whether it is paid or unpaid, the terms of payment, resources accessible to employees on leave, and the employee’s return date.
Child turning 26
If children become ineligible for your health plan after age 26, as allowed under the Affordable Care Act, communicate with employees at least two to three months in advance. Provide details on the coverage’s end date, COBRA rights and costs, and alternative options for health coverage.
Let employees know if you provide benefits through your EAP or another vendor to help them find coverage for an adult child. These communications can increase employees’ appreciation of the benefits and services you provide.
Employee nearing age 65
As employees near retirement age, provide information about your retirement plan, Medicare or COBRA eligibility, phased retirement options and other benefits for older employees.
Employees working past age 65 need to understand the interplay between your health plan and Medicare coverage. For example, ensuring employees have creditable prescription drug coverage past age 65 can save them from lifetime penalties under Medicare.
In addition, employer life insurance policies are subject to reductions in coverage for employees age 65 and older. But many employees are unaware of the possibility of reduced coverage. Some life insurance carriers allow employees to pay more to keep the original coverage or convert it to a personal policy outside of employment.
This information is valuable to employees nearing age 65. But it also demonstrates a culture of caring and can enhance your reputation among all employees.
For more ideas
For better benefits communications, talk with your benefits adviser. They can help you design a communications strategy or connect you to experienced communications practitioners.
This content is for informational purposes only and not for the purpose of providing professional, financial, medical or legal advice. You should contact your licensed professional to obtain advice with respect to any particular issue or problem.