3 Ways to Fight Opioids’ Effects on the Workforce

3 Ways to Fight Opioids’ Effects on the Workforce

America’s growing opioid addiction crisis affects all areas of life, including the workplace. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates the economic impact of opioid addiction is more than $78.5 billion a year. This estimate includes costs of healthcare; lost productivity; addiction treatment; and the involvement of the criminal justice system.

While the monetary cost is immense, the toll on human lives is more concerning. The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) estimates that every day an average of 90 Americans die after overdosing on opioids. Drug overdose has become the leading cause of death for Americans under 50, a group that forms the core of the workforce.

Addressing the opioid epidemic is a sensitive topic for many employers. They may fear legal ramifications from mishandling an employee suffering from addiction. However, silence or reactive company policies will not yield the changes needed to reverse current trends.

Here are three suggestions to safely and proactively address the opioid crisis with your employees.

1. Educate Employees on the Risks

Misinformation is a major reason the opioid epidemic remains a persistent problem. Many employees continue to associate opioid addiction with illegal narcotics, such as heroin. In 2015, an estimated 591,000 people in the United States suffered from a heroin-use disorder. By comparison, over 2 million people suffered from prescription opioid-related addiction. Communication pieces that effectively educate employees on the dangers of prescription opioids are essential.

2. Empower Employees in Prevention Efforts

Encourage employees to have open conversations with their primary care physician. Employees have a right to question their healthcare provider if he or she prescribes an opioid. They should learn about alternative ways to treat and manage pain. Your company’s prescription drug carrier can provide resources about covered alternate pain medications.

3. Provide a Path to Recovery

For many employees who struggle with addiction, the biggest barrier to recovery is not knowing how to take the first step. Your company can provide this essential resource in the form of an Employee Assistance Program (EAP). The National Safety Council notes that 70 percent of all U.S. companies provide EAPs. Yet “many employees don’t understand the value or may fear negative ramifications if they seek help.” An EAP connects employees with the best resources for addiction recovery that are aligned with your benefits program.

Your messages can minimize the stigma of addiction and encourage employees to prevent opioid misuse. Then your company will provide a vital contribution to the ongoing struggle against opioid abuse.

 

Andrew Clancy

Written by Andrew Clancy

Andrew is an experienced communications professional who specializes in multimedia content creation. He enjoys the process of building communications solutions that achieve an organization’s objectives while empowering its employees through education.

Trion Communications Andrew.Clancy@trion-mma.com

Consider Employee Wellness in the New Year

Consider Employee Wellness in the New Year

Happy New Year! It’s time to prepare for a new journey for our well-being, both physically and mentally.

Well-being is encouraging myself and others to be remarkable, mindful, and live with a purpose. So, I’ll jump on my soap box and shout to the world: “Hey! Does your company support a wellness program for its employees?”

Well, if they don’t, I challenge you to stand on your soap box and get involved this year. Take ownership of your and your co-workers’ well-being. Create an employee wellness movement that drives change.

Drive Change

It’s time corporations listen and take interest not only in employees’ medical expenses, but in their whole person—productivity, engagement, loyalty, and job satisfaction.

Create a friendly, comfortable, open environment for your employees to develop a wellness movement. Your goal should be fostering a culture that is engaged, focused, and enthusiastic about living with a purpose.

Health care costs are going up every year. By incorporating robust wellness programs into your benefits plan, you encourage employees to take control of preventable diseases. Did you know that according to Health Affairs Magazine, workplace wellness programs support the prevention of cardiovascular disease?

It’s simple to create an employee wellness movement within your company. Remember listen . . . create . . . inspire . . . reward.

Listen

Develop a comprehensive survey to evaluate your employees’ understanding of how wellness affects every moment of their lives, at home and at work. Pose questions which are personal and caring. Ask how they would like to improve their health and professional development. Engage management to create a safe environment for your colleagues to get involved.

Create

Your employees are hungry for health and wellness information. According to the Pew Trust Research Center, 35% of adults have gone online to find information on a medical condition.

Create employee wellness communications to educate, engage, and motivate. All communications should be targeted and multi-channeled with their frequency and placement.

Programs can start small, then grow into movements that drive behavioral change, enrich lives, and create productive, satisfied employees. Here is a case study on an insurance company that started a small wellness program and embraced the benefits of creating a culture of wellness.

Inspire

Your employees work hard. Promote wellness by designing a work environment that drives behavioral change. A targeted, robust employee wellness program will inspire co-workers at every level. You will begin to hear chatter of wellness achievements and increases in behavioral change. These are the start of the benefits of a wellness movement.

Reward

Reward your colleagues for reaching their goals with caring and meaningful incentives. You will begin to see a community that recognizes success and celebrates each other. Your colleagues will come to work more productive, enthusiastic, engaged, and healthier. These are the benefits of educating and inspiring your colleagues into a culture of well-being. You did it! It’s an employee wellness movement.

The bottom line is, don’t just focus on the financial part of your benefits. Focus on the whole person. At Trion Communications, we have the tools to help create an employee wellness movement within your company. For more information please call or click to speak to one of our communication experts. We will help you get on your soap box and create a culture of well-being.

Remember to be remarkable, be well, be mindful, and live with a purpose.

 

Sharon Tucker

Written by Sharon Tucker

Trion Communications sharon.tucker@trion-mma.com

Shifting Gears after a Successful Open Enrollment

Shifting Gears after a Successful Open Enrollment

It’s November. That means you can see the light at the end of the open enrollment tunnel. Or maybe your company’s already driven clear through.

Your communications strategy got you through this hectic season. But what happens at the end of the year? Although your human resources staff and communications team deserve a break, there is still work on the road ahead.

Communicate often. Don’t slam the brakes because OE season has passed. After the enrollment ends but before the new plan year starts is a great time to educate your employees and start thinking about the next journey.

According to an LIMRA study, just 38% of companies surveyed even have a formal benefits communications plan. Of that group, 65% measure their plan’s success. Measurement is a useful tool to create engaged healthcare consumers. Employees who think their companies communicate benefits well have increased loyalty and engagement.

Survey your employees now, when open enrollment is still top of mind. Some possible questions to ask:

  • Did you feel like you received enough information about available benefits?
  • What information was the most useful in helping you make decisions?
  • How would you like open enrollment messages delivered?
  • What could we do better next year?

Answers can be used to craft next year’s open enrollment campaign. Employee feedback sparks conversation, whether you use an outside benefits communications firm, like Trion, or handle your own communications.

One question to ask yourself is: What can we do to rev the engines for 2018? Create targeted communication pieces to explain to employees how and why to use their benefit. You already showed your employees how to choose benefits. Now, educate them on how to use those benefits. Take a lesson from employee benefits communications firms. They help clients teach employees about the available benefits and wellness programs year-round.

Introduce a communications plan around new benefits

Is your company introducing a high deductible health plan with an HSA next year? Now is the time to teach employees about what medical expenses do and do not qualify for their HSA funds. It’s their hard-earned money in that health savings account, help them make the most of it. Are you offering an EAP program for the first time? Remind workers about its online resources and counseling services to help cope with relationship and financial stressors and other concerns.

Remind employees of flexible spending account conditions

Can employees roll over funds? What is the deadline to use those rollover funds? Is there a grace period to incur claims? Craft communications pieces that teach the answers. If employees had a lot of money remaining in their 2017 accounts, educate them on making smarter choices for next year.

Talk to employees about wellness programs

January is a popular time for health-related resolutions, but many people think about their goals now. Create communications pieces that guide employees on the path to wellness. Remind them about reimbursements for gym memberships offered through your insurance carriers. Include education about how to sign up. Help workers start off 2018 by kicking their smoking habit. Let workers know about free or low-cost smoking cessation programs from the insurance company or EAP.

Simple, specific messages are key to post-enrollment communications. Lists and infographics are great uncluttered and engaging options. An infographic that shows ways the EAP can help employees destress or a list of the Top 5 Ways to Use Remaining Healthcare FSA Funds are two examples.

Tailor messages to the right audiences. Employees enrolled in a PPO for example, don’t care about how to take advantage of their HSA. Likewise, those with only a dependent care FSA don’t need reminders about rollover funds.

Use the information from your post-enrollment survey to choose the right vehicle. How do employees prefer to get benefits messages—flyers mailed to their homes, emails sent to their work address, in-person events? Meet employees where they will be most receptive to your message.

You can pat yourself on the back for a successful open enrollment season. You can also assess where the path was smooth and where the road was bumpy. Take this time to assess the highs and lows of 2017’s open enrollment. And make a plan to drive towards something bigger and better in 2018.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Danielle Love

Written by Danielle Love

Danielle is a benefits communications specialist, working on behalf of clients to write, edit and design dynamic print and virtual communications. She also manages the Trion Communications blog, which highlights the practice’s diverse areas of expertise.

Trion Communications Danielle.Love@trion-mma.com

Which Halloween Candy Best Represents Your Company’s Benefits?

Which Halloween Candy Best Represents Your Company’s Benefits?

It’s October. Haunted hayrides scare eager customers, pumpkin patches are filled with jack-o-lanterns waiting to be carved, and stores are stocked with sugary treats. Yes, October means Halloween is right around the corner!

It’s also time for your company to introduce open enrollment season. As a conscientious human resources professional, you put a lot of diligence into crafting your benefits offerings. Your company’s carefully written benefits guide might answer the questions: Is this an active or passive enrollment? Are there new insurance carriers? Will medical premiums increase next year?

Yet, the real question is: Which Halloween candy best represents your company’s benefits?

Hershey®

This candy is old-school chocolate goodness. No fancy add-ins; it has tasted the same for generations. A Hershey® bar represents basic employee benefits.

Maybe your company offers only one medical plan option. Maybe your company does not contribute money for workers’ health savings accounts if they elect a high deductible health plan. Maybe the long-term disability offering is 100% employee-paid instead of funded by the company. Maybe telecommuting is not an option for workers at your organization.

Hershey® style benefits take care of workers’ baseline needs. These employee benefits are all about simplicity. Smaller or newer companies may start out with simple benefits as they get off the ground. With Hershey® bar offerings, the key is in the presentation. Benefits communications should be dynamic and engaging. With streamlined benefits, your company can offer non-monetary perks, like casual dress or summer half-day Fridays, to show employees they are valued.

Snickers®

This candy has it all: Nougat, caramel, peanuts, and chocolate. A Snickers® bar represents the full suite of employee benefits.

Medical, dental and vision insurance at various price points? Check. Basic and supplemental life and long-term and short-term disability insurance? Of course. Accident coverage to help pay for trips to the emergency room? Definitely. Health care, dependent care and transportation flexible spending accounts? Certainly. Employee assistance program to offer work-life guidance? Sure. Company match for the 401(K) savings plan? Affirmative. Parental leave after the birth or adoption of a child? Absolutely.

Keeping pace with the competition matters in recruitment and retention. Snickers® style benefits offer something for the widest employee demographic. Not every worker will enroll in each benefit. Offering possibilities creates and maintains a satisfied workforce.

Mounds®

This candy’s chocolate and coconut combination is not for everyone’s sweet tooth. But it does have its loyal followers.

A Mounds® bar represents out-of-the-box employee benefits. Your company offers employees the chance to buy supplemental long-term care insurance. That benefit is attractive to the sandwich generation. Between caring for aging parents and raising children, they need to think about their own future. Your company has a student loan repayment program. Such a benefit is golden for recruiting and retaining Millennial and upcoming Gen Z employees. Members of the Class of 2016 graduated college with an average debt of $37,172, according to Student Loan Hero. Your company takes care of its workers’ furry friends by offering voluntary pet insurance. Vet bills can add up, so this coverage gives employees peace of mind. The organization could have a pet-friendly office, so instead of finding a pet daycare, employees work alongside dogs and cats.

Not every corporation offers benefits like these and they make yours stand out. Mounds® style benefits appeal to fringe groups of employees. Your company offers standard benefits too, but uncommon offerings make workers feel appreciated.

Hershey®, Snickers® or Mounds®? No matter the flavor of your employee benefit offerings, they should sweeten the deal to hire and keep the brightest workers.

 

Danielle Love

Written by Danielle Love

Danielle is a benefits communications specialist, working on behalf of clients to write, edit and design dynamic print and virtual communications. She also manages the Trion Communications blog, which highlights the practice’s diverse areas of expertise.

Trion Communications Danielle.Love@trion-mma.com

Communicating the Value of Voluntary Benefits with Employees

Communicating the Value of Voluntary Benefits with Employees

In annual open enrollment communications, many organizations must explain why employee contributions have risen and coverage has changed. In our work with our clients, we see firsthand the tensions of benefits professionals. They try to offer the highest quality benefits while preventing higher costs from passing on to employees. This challenge of getting value for the money is echoed in many areas of employees’ lives outside the workplace. There is a widening gap between income and expenses that everyone is trying to address.

Fortunately, companies and employees alike are embracing Voluntary Benefits in greater numbers. Voluntary Benefits allow employers to offer a more robust benefits package to their employees. In effect, they help them “mind the gap.” They give employees the positive feeling of customization. Employees pick and choose the specific benefits that meet their needs. Coverage options range from life insurance to pet insurance to dental and vision plans; identity theft protection; even legal services and financial counseling. Voluntary Benefits are employee-paid but employees conveniently pay premiums through payroll deduction.

If your organization offers Voluntary Benefits, you should put extra effort into communicating their value to employees. You can raise awareness and increase participation in these valuable parts of your benefits offerings.

Help Employees Mind the Gap

If your employees don’t closely track their household finances, they might not understand certain life events could impact their budget.  It’s important to emphasize the overall increase in the costs of services for everything from an x-ray to an hour of legal counsel. When presented with the total, employees may see a need for additional protection.

Explain How Each Benefit Works

Take a look at the average company’s benefits communications and you’ll see its medical plan(s) front and center. Once employees wade through information on deductibles and out-of-pocket maximums, fatigue might set in when they reach the Voluntary Benefits section. It’s important to connect Voluntary Benefits, like critical illness or accident coverage, to your company’s medical plans. The location of such messages in your benefits booklets can remove some of the effort to create the connection for employees.

You should also consider creating additional, separate communications emphasize your Voluntary Benefits offerings. This will give you the opportunity to explain how each benefit works in more detail. This is a great opportunity to reinforce how each Voluntary Benefit fits into your company’s overall benefits philosophy. You want to use positive associations to help employees view Voluntary Benefits as possible solutions to the income/expense gap.

Provide Examples

One of the strengths of Voluntary Benefits is that they provide great value when compared to the cost that comes out of an employee’s paycheck. Give employees scenarios in which the benefits could potentially help cushion the impact caused by a life event. Call attention to the coverage amounts so that employees understand what would be available in each situation. If you are able to paint a clear picture, you increase the chances the scales will tip in favor of employees enrolling in the benefit.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Andrew Clancy

Written by Andrew Clancy

Andrew is an experienced communications professional who specializes in multimedia content creation. He enjoys the process of building communications solutions that achieve an organization’s objectives while empowering its employees through education.

Trion Communications Andrew.Clancy@trion-mma.com

How to Engage Different Groups in the Workforce

How to Engage Different Groups in the Workforce

I love listicles and devour them for news. 5 Things You Need to Know This Week. 10 Things to Make with Leftover Chicken. My boyfriend hates them. He prefers getting his information from discussion forums. People have grown accustomed to getting news in their desired format: lists, long-form articles, discussion forums, infographics, videos, etc. So why do companies expect their one-size-fits-all employee communications will be effective?

There are currently five generations in the workforce. Each generation brings insights from their different lifestyles and experiences. Each also has different preferences and expectations for communications. While traditionalists generally expect audiences to be passive and respectful to authority, millennials want to be engaged.

This generational gap is one of many in a workforce where one-size-fits-all communications fails. Others may include gender, culture, location, and roles. After all, what would an employee at a manufacturing plant think about receiving an email of corporate speak?

In a study by GuideSpark, over 70% of respondents said that they want their companies to improve how they communicate information.

It’s Just Talking to Our Employees. Why Does It Matter?

Research from Gallup shows disengagement remains a critical problem for the American workforce It costs businesses up to $605 billion each year in lost productivity. In the American workplace with more than 100 million full-time employees:

  • 16% are actively disengaged – completely miserable at work.
  • 51% are disengaged – just there, doing the bare minimum to squeak by.
  • 33% are engaged – truly love their jobs and make their organization better every day.

Employees who are actively disengaged are “more likely to steal from their company, negatively influence their coworkers, miss workdays and drive customers away.” One cause of low engagement is leaders who don’t define and communicate the company vision and rally employees around it.

  • Only 22% of employees strongly agree their organization’s leadership has a clear direction for the organization.
  • Only 13% of employees strongly agree their organization’s leadership communicates effectively with the rest of the organization.

What Can Employers Do?

Communication is “the cornerstone of an engaged workforce” and is key in improving employee engagement. To communicate effectively with employees, employers must:

  • Understand your organization. Talk to your employees and find out what they want. What is working? What is not working? What do they need? How do they want it?
  • Personalize your approach. Once you understand the differences in your organization, decide how you want to engage the various groups.

For each message, consider the following:

  • Audience: Who needs to get this message? What is the best way to group to capture their different interests or viewpoints in this message? You could group message recipients by demographics, geography, or employment area.
  • Content: What does each group need in order for the message to resonate with them? Do they need proof points or background information?
  • Channel: What’s the most effective way to reach each group? This may include face-to-face meetings, mail, email, text messages, social media, or company intranets.
  • Medium: What’s the most effective way to communicate different messages? This may include in-person, video, email, article, blog post or infographic.
  • Speaker: Who should deliver each message? Would it be more impactful if a message came from a higher-up, like the CEO or someone who knows the group personally, like their line manager?
  • Obstacles: Consider different factors that may impact your message reaching your audience. Is it the group’s busy time of the year when they are already behind on emails? If so, will another email be just lost in the shuffle?

Think of your organization’s different audiences and consider their needs when planning communications. You will be able to reach them more effectively and improve your employee engagement.

Anna Li

Written by Anna Li

Anna is an internal communications specialist. Working with key internal stakeholders, she develops and executes the internal communications plan for Trion. She also manages the Trion intranet to help foster greater collaboration and engagement between employees.

Trion Communications Anna.Li@trion-mma.com