The face of benefits has changed. As costs continue to rise, companies introduce new benefits, like consumer-driven health plans. Traditional PPOs or HMO’s enjoyed by our parents and grandparents are now prohibitively expensive. Terms like deductible, coinsurance and health spending accounts are part of the vernacular. All this represents a seismic shift in thinking for your employees.

Do you know what your employees think about this new world of benefits? How do their perceptions reflect on how they feel about you as an employer?

Employees may perceive benefits changes as the company not caring about what they think—or need. That’s a dangerous path that creates workers who are resistant to communications.

Remember WIIFM in New Benefits Introductions

How employees receive new benefits information depends on how well you communicate it. A solid communications plan puts “WIIFM” –What’s In It For Me— first. It can swing workers in the right direction and support them in making benefits decisions that offer them valuable coverage.

Communications that miss the mark, or worse yet, minimize employees’ pain risk falling on deaf ears. This decreases the level of appreciation for the benefits you do offer and your efforts to save employees money.

So, how can you manage everybody’s health care spending without alienating your workforce?

Make an effort to understand what employees think about new benefits. And that starts with listening.

Ways to Listen as You Introduce New Benefits to Employees

When you introduce new benefits to employees, there will be many questions. Be prepared to answer them through a variety of communications. Note commonly asked questions as cues where to focus your communications. Remember, delivery method matters. If you mail postcards to workers who’d rather get a text, your message could end up in the trash.

Here are four ways to get your message into the minds of employees and introduce new benefits successfully. They include both conventional and out-of-the box options. Chose one or a combination of two or more, whatever works best for your needs and audience.

1) Focus Groups and Surveys

There are a few conventional methods, like, focus groups and surveys to help you learn what employees think.

They’re best used to complement one another. Surveys and quick pulse polls are good at getting answers to broad surface questions. Focus groups are excellent for digging down deeper into a single issue.

2) Engage Employee “Listeners”

While there’s many ways to communicate these days, the most effective remains face to face. Non-verbal cues determine whether 93 percent of communications are effective. In-person conversations are an essential tool for reading employees thoughts about new benefits.

Appoint trustworthy, likeable, approachable, and influential employees as “Listeners.” Arm them with some questions and send them to “Listening Posts” in high-traffic areas. There, they can approach passing employees and ask them question or two about what they think about the introduction of new benefits.

You decide how in-depth you want the questions to be. Promise anonymity to encourage honesty. Potential questions to ask include:

  • Which aspects of the new benefits plan are unclear to you ? Where do you have questions?
  • How do you prefer to get your communications?

The “listening post” process shouldn’t take longer than 15 minutes. You could even give a small gift to anyone who participates.

3) Create How Are We Doing? Cards

Create a comment card style survey and place stacks of them near comment boxes around the workspace. Craft the questions to be open-ended and offer anonymity as an option. If you get any workable suggestions—and you likely will—be sure to attribute them to the program.

4) Hold Q&A Sessions

Often, workers don’t take advantage of the benefits they’re offered because they don’t understand them . Provide employees with an opportunity to participate in an open forum where they can ask their questions and get answers.

You can even offer separate sessions for separate groups, to provide new benefits information targeted to their unique needs or concerns. For example, one session can be for millennials just off their parents’ plans, another can be for new or expecting parents, and another can be for employees with chronic conditions, like diabetes.

Focused attention shows it matters what employees think when you introduce new benefits. As a bonus, you may get ideas for improvement you hadn’t already considered.

It’s crucial to strike the right tone in your communications that introduce employees to new benefits. These listening methods will help you refine your approach, benefitting both workers and the bottom line.

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Stephen Trimble

Written by Stephen Trimble

Stephen is an experienced communications professional with a background in educational and internal communications. He is most excited by transforming complex and obscure subject matter into compelling content that readers are motivated by and can truly understand.

Trion Communications stephen.trimble@trion-mma.com