A healthy work environment is one that considers all aspects of employees’ well-being. This includes physical, mental and yes, financial wellness.
If that last one is a surprise to you, check the pulse of your employees. Many of them want guidance through tough financial situations. Are giving them they support they need?
Holistic financial wellness for employees goes beyond offering them a 401(K). A recent study showed a gap between programs employers think they should offer and what employees think should be available to them
For example, student loan debt is a well-known financial hurdle. The average borrower graduates college with $37,000 in debt. It can prevent younger employees from buying homes or achieving other financial milestones. Survey results show 46 percent of employees want their companies to help them pay off or finance student loan debt. 18 percent of bosses agreed.
You may have heard the financial mantra that you need an emergency fund that covers three to six months of living expenses. Unfortunately, according to a Bankrate survey, 23 percent of Americans have no emergency savings. In fact, 22 percent have only saved enough to cover fewer than three months.
It follows, then, that 44 percent of workers want their companies to offer them help to create that emergency fund. Only 22 percent of employers agree they should offer such help. With an emergency fund part of an overall budget plan, 36 percent of employees would also like assistance to maintain their budget.
Let’s Talk About Money
They are more examples of this divide, but you get the idea. Employees are looking to you, as an employer of choice, to throw them a financial life raft. We recommend using employee communications throughout the year to give workers support. Here are a few ways to get you started:
- Use pay increases to as a time for a financial wellness conversation. Communications can encourage employees to tuck that extra money into their emergency fund. Create an infographic that shows even small increases can have big impacts. Show them how even a three percent raise on a $50,000 salary offers them an extra $1,500 per year. Total rewards statements help employees see the whole picture of their compensation. They will understand and appreciate the employee value proposition and you as an employer.
- Create a savings account guide. This is a communication that lays out all the ways employees can save money. They’re no longer limited to stowing their money at their local bank. Online savings and money market accounts offer better interest rates. Or, your 401(K) provider may also offer a savings vehicle with a good rate of return. Show the pros and cons of different account providers. Teach employees where they can learn more about savings options.
- Use communications to show employees where they’re leaving money on the table. Does your company match 401(K) contributions? Explain to workers how that’s essentially “free” money. Send year-end reminders to workers enrolled in flexible savings accounts so they remember to a use funds before expiration. Create a handy checklist of eligible expenses.
Awareness is the First Step
Open enrollment is another logical time to support workers to make wise financial choices. Encourage employees to choose plans that get them the care they need at a price they can afford. For example, HDHPs can be a vehicle for financial wellness for employees. These plans take a smaller chunk out of paychecks. In your communications, illustrate that difference. Employees can funnel the money they save from making smart benefits decisions towards student loan or other personal debt.
Workers might not know money in health savings accounts, which go hand-in-hand with HDHPs, grows tax-free. That money is theirs forever; it travels with them when they change jobs. And when employees are 55 years old, they can sock away an extra $1,000 annually. Create targeted, forward-thinking communications for baby boomers. When they retire, they can use their HSA to pay for covered medical expenses. Tell them that saving now can stop headaches in the future.
Encourage smart financial decisions in year-round communications. Your employee intranet is a smart place to house on-demand financial education. You can poll your workforce on the financial worries that keep them up at night (anonymously, of course!) Then, create and post short, educational videos, infographics, and fact sheets on those topics. Develop a mix to appeal to various learning and communications preferences. If time or resources are tight, you can link to educational videos and podcasts from outlets like You Need a Budget.
Personal financial stress affects all areas of life, including work performance. Help your workforce shine at home and at work. Use communications to show you look out for employees’ physical, mental and financial wellness.
The average American accesses over 30 apps on our smartphone each month. We use them to do everything from learn a new language to look up movie times.
But has your company considered the powerful role apps can play to engage employees in their benefits? Don’t be afraid of an apps-based open enrollment. It may be just the thing to target tech-savvy, time-crunched employees.
Enrollment at Their Fingertips
Did you know Americans spend more time interacting with smartphone apps than watching TV? Sure, some of that time might be spent playing Fortnite or Minecraft, but there are more productive uses of app time.
There’s a strong chance the third-party software you use for open enrollment has an app. Instead of selecting and monitoring benefits from their computers, employees chose them from their smartphones. This may be the secret to reach today’s busy, on-the-go workers. If a large portion of your workforce isn’t deskbound, an open enrollment app makes benefits selection easy.
Apps are key to educate employees about their benefits. Trion’s iBenefits app puts control right in employees’ hands. They can securely view their plan information whenever they want and contact carriers with a simple click.
Meet employees where they are (on their smartphones) and they will value you as an employer. Take the time to communicate the ease of use of these enrollment apps. They help employees stay engaged in their benefits.
Employee procrastination can be a challenge to meeting deadlines. Why not give employees the nudge they need? Some third-party apps send push notifications to remind staff about important open enrollment dates.
Do it Yourself Apps
If you want more control over the features of an open enrollment app, or if you are feeling adventurous, you can create your own app. Proprietary app development is more expensive and time-consuming than using off-the-shelf employee benefits apps. Yet, it offers some convincing pros.
Customized apps offer greater security and easier integration with your existing software. If your employees’ make benefits choices through your company intranet, then a complimentary app may work best. With a DIY app, you control the features and maximize how you engage employees in their benefits.
For the highest quality results, hire a professional app developer. Search for developers with knowledge of employee benefits and experience creating similar apps. The upfront expense of someone with app-building expertise ensures all the kinks are ironed out upon launch.
Communicate About Carrier Apps
After open enrollment, continue the conversation around apps. Do your employees know most carriers offer an app? They can access ID cards, find doctors and schedule appointments, check HSA or FSA balances, and more. Apps aren’t limited to medical carriers. Employees can check and adjust 401(K) balances, get supplemental life insurance quotes, and book conversations with EAP counselors from the palm of their hands.
Your role as their employer is to teach them about these options. Create educational pieces, like short, instructional videos that walk through the apps’ functions. Or, combine in-person and digital education and host a meeting that showcases how to download and access the offerings. Teach employees how they can stay engaged in their benefits with apps throughout the year.
You always need to consider the communications preferences of all your workers. An open enrollment that’s only apps-based would not work. Add apps to the mix of communications options, like online guides and printed booklets and face-to-face meetings. You know your staff best. Tailor your open enrollment communications approach to meet their needs.
It may be too late to introduce apps for this year’s open enrollment. However, it’s not too early to think ahead to next year. What do you want the future of enrollment to look like?
As summer wraps up, thoughts turn to open enrollment. Now, more than ever, you need effective benefits communications. But, what makes audiences step up and take notice? Communications that answer their pressing questions. Incorporate the 5 W’s into your messaging for a successful open enrollment.
Who is the target audience for your open enrollment communications? That’s easy, you might say. It’s my employees. And, you would be correct.
Yet, you may need to drill down even further. Effective communications sometimes requires you to target specific audience members. You can deliver information to people who are uniquely affected (targeting folks enrolled in a particular plan to let them know it’s going away). You can develop audience personas that allow you to segment people with shared characteristics into groups. These approaches further define your messaging and approach.
For example, do baby boomers know they can make additional contributions to their 401(K) plans? Do employees who take public transit to the office know they can set aside pre-tax money through a commuter reimbursement account? Do parents of pre-teens know the dental plan offers orthodontic coverage?
You get the point. Find the message that speaks to each demographic.
What is the most important thing you need to convey? This could be a universal message across employee groups (e.g., Open Enrollment is coming!) or it could vary based on population. Either way, identify the core messages you need employees to know so they can select the right plans and enroll successfully. Then, communicate, communicate, communicate.
For example, are you introducing a High Deductible Health Plan? If so, explain new concepts, like a health savings account and how employees can use it to their advantage.
Are premiums going up? Don’t be afraid to be transparent and show employees the true cost of their benefits. 41 percent of respondents to a recent poll did not know their contributions, employer contributions, and the cost of services make up the total cost of healthcare. Give employees tips for saving money. Show how they can use covered preventive screenings or tobacco-user discounts to their advantage.
Where do your employees go for information? Online? Their home mailboxes? The shared breakroom? All of the above? You need to provide communications that meet them at each of these places. That’s a 21st century best practice for a successful open enrollment.
Even in today’s digital world, there are people who favor a printed Guide (52 percent, according to a Jellyvision poll). Yet, many others will look elsewhere for the tips and tools they need to choose and use their benefits. Make information available both inside and outside firewalls, so spouses and other dependents can access it.
And don’t forget in-person meetings. Face-to-face communications will always be the most powerful way to share information. Create the time and space for employees to ask questions about their benefits. If you can, bring in representatives from your carriers so employees can learn from them, too.
When will you deliver your message? If you’re not being strategic about timing, you risk missing the boat. Too many people wait until the week before enrollment starts. That cuts it too close.
Instead, do a drip campaign two to three weeks in advance that tells employees enrollment is coming. Teach them how to prepare for it. Then, when the season is in full swing, send frequent reminders to employees to take action.
Create a marketing plan three months before open enrollment and draft communications two months before. Thoughtful collateral takes time to write and design. Outsourcing to a benefits communications firm, like Trion, can give your pieces that professional touch. And you’ll focus your energy on other necessities.
Why should your employees pay attention? Your communications need to give them a reason.
Resist the temptation to lead with what’s in it for the company. Instead, stay focused on what’s in it for the employees —or the “WIFFM.” Include a call to action in your communications. Make the next steps obvious.
Share employee success stories and testimonials that show how folks have made smart benefits choices. This not only makes benefits tangible, but promotes the idea that employees trust each other. They will use the stories as guideposts for making their own decisions.
Employees want help picking their benefits. Lay out the pros and cons of the choices available and how each works. That will help employees understand the benefits offered and make good choices. Ditch the jargon. Instead, use simple language. Write like you talk and be conversational. Benefits terms may be second nature to you, but, when it doubt, spell it out.
And the bonus question: How?
How do you know what employees want from the open enrollment process? Ask them! Poll your workforce on their preferred methods of communication. Ask if the frequency and timing of messages work for them? Do they feel rushed to make decisions because the timing is off? You will gain actionable insights by simply talking to your workforce
Of course, there is no such thing as a worry-free open enrollment. But if your communication strategy addresses these 5 “W’s”, you have a better chance of a successful open enrollment. Good luck!
Earlier this spring, I spent a morning as a volunteer at the non-profit Cradles to Crayons. Along with seven of my co-workers, I assembled bags of clothes, shoes and books for children in need from our community. The event was part of Trion Cares, our company’s corporate volunteer program. We can build houses for Habitat for Humanity, cook and serve meals at the Ronald McDonald House and contribute our time and talents in other ways.
A corporate volunteer program shows our company cares about its employees’ well-being, too. Volunteering reduces stress and depression. Regular volunteers even live longer than their peers.
If your organization has a company volunteer program, that’s great! But are employees receptive to it? To maximize success and take advantage of the benefits to your business, spread the word about volunteering early and often.
Plant the Seeds
I first learned about Trion’s corporate volunteer program when I was offered my job. Human Resources explained it to me as part of the total PTO package. The program gives employees eight paid hours per year to volunteer at a certified charity. We can either join a company-organized event or find our own opportunity.
On-boarding communication is a logical place to describe your volunteer program. Include it in the employee handbook. To engage employees, include colleagues’ personal stories of their community service experiences.
But there could be an even better place to introduce this benefit. Describe the program in your recruitment communications. We are currently in a buyers’ market for jobs. Companies need to be creative when courting new and talented workers. A 2016 survey by Cone Communications shows 51% of employees won’t work for a company that doesn’t have social justice commitments.
Engage job seekers and talk about your corporate volunteer program before they send in their resumes. List it as a benefit on job postings. Mention it on public-facing websites and social media pages. Include photos of the most recent event to emphasize the sense of togetherness volunteering provides.
Water the Garden
To encourage continued participation, you need consistent communications about the corporate volunteer program. Promote upcoming volunteer opportunities in email blasts, the intranet and employee newsletters. Reach out to partner community service organizations for their feedback. Quotes from them make for powerful testimonials to punch up your copy.
Vary the dates, places and missions of service opportunities to make the program as attractive as possible. This allows employees with different schedules, office locations and talents to pick what suits them the best. Corporate volunteer opportunities are a great way to promote camaraderie. At my recent event, I got to know co-workers from other locations.
Sign up should be quick and simple. Send periodic reminders and include directions to the service site and other useful information.
Watch it Grow
A corporate volunteer program has many benefits to your business. It positions your organization as a civic leader. As the famous comic book saying goes, “With great power comes great responsibility.” There could be unmet needs within the community that your employees’ skills can address. Connect with area non-profits to ask how you can best serve them. Continue the conversation and check in periodically to look for updated opportunities.
Engage your employees with regular communications about corporate volunteering and reap the benefits. Community service programs are a powerful retention tool.
Eighty-nine percent of respondents to the 2017 Deloitte Volunteerism Survey believe a company that sponsors volunteer opportunities offers a better working environment. Such opportunities foster loyalty and help employees advance in their careers. Another survey shows 80% of participants find active volunteers move more easily into leadership roles.
Corporate volunteer programs have a range of benefits, from employee well-being to positive perception of your organization. Don’t forget the most important benefit of all: The satisfaction that only comes from selflessly lending your time and talents for the betterment of others.
Happy Spring! As we look ahead to warmer weather, is your company looking ahead to a mid-year open enrollment? Then it’s time to focus on ways to stop employee procrastination. A comprehensive communications strategy that uses these 4 “S’s” will ease employee stress in the coming months.
Set a Goal
Begin with the end in mind. What actions do you want employees to take this year? What problem would you like your enrollment communications to solve? Maybe you’d like workers to get a biometric screening? Maybe you’d like people to know you’ve switched dental carriers? Maybe you’d like employees to sign up for benefits through a new website?
Whether the news is big or small, find the reason your employees need to pay attention and stop procrastinating. That reason will be the focal point of interactions.
Spell it Out
What does this mean? Benefits communications is full of acronyms: FSA, HSA, HRA, HDHP, PPO, HMO, STD, LTD, FMLA, PCP and QLE. This alphabet soup is enough to make anyone lose their appetite!
Be careful if, how, and when you use these abbreviations or you risk losing employees’ attention. If they can’t grasp the concepts, then it’s easy for them to ignore the central message. That’s when employee procrastination kicks in.
Effective communications defines these must-know terms and uses them sparingly. Remember, not everyone is surrounded by benefits all day. Try to write as if you’re explaining them to your mom, your neighbor, or anyone outside the industry. State the most important facts in broad terms as early as possible.
Attention spans in this digital age are brief, so don’t bury the lead. Workers will want to know exactly what they need to do and when, so tell them ASAP.
Select the Ideal Reader
If you have different audiences with various plans and needs, you should target communications. The goal for a manger could be different from the goal for worker on the factory floor. Or, the goal for an employee in his first job out of college could be different from the goal for an executive looking ahead to her retirement. If you speak to workers’ specific needs, it makes it less likely they will ignore the message and start that pesky procrastination cycle.
Take a cue from the marketing industry and craft audience personas or profiles of your readers. Get into the minds of employees who will receive your enrollment communications. How can you best convey your messages to these different groups?
Don’t be afraid to try new delivery methods beyond the standard benefits newsletter or presentation uploaded to the intranet. Maybe your workers will respond to a postcard or flyer they can thumbtack in their cube as a visual cue. Maybe on-the-go workers and/or spouses will appreciate a video they can access from their smartphones.
Female spouses are key allies in your fight to end open enrollment procrastination. Women in America make 80 percent of their household’s healthcare decisions. Target them with at-home mailings and online content available 24/7 outside of the company firewall.
Schedule Message Delivery
Consistent communication is important to stop enrollment procrastination. Start communicating before the open enrollment period. Small reminders that enrollment is coming up will stop employee surprise.
Once the season begins, communications is not a one-and-done strategy. Pace the rollout of your messages. Well-timed reminders throughout open enrollment will keep everyone on track.
As much as you try to prevent employee procrastination around open enrollment, some workers will sign up for benefits at 11pm on the last day. A final communications push at the end will keep that date fresh in their mind. After all, one of most common questions workers ask is, What’s the deadline?
These tips apply whether your open enrollment begins in June, October or January. A balanced communications strategy will stop employee procrastination.