Solving the attention deficit: multiple-location workforce

Corporate Synergies

Here’s a typical scenario you may have encountered over the last few years: There are important changes to your health insurance plan and you need to get the word out to your plan participants. Seems simple enough, but for a lot of benefits managers it isn’t. Things can get complicated in a hurry.

Often, employees are spread out across multiple locations. On top of that, you have the challenge that demographic groups consume information in different ways. Some want everything on paper, while others want it electronically. And, of course, there some employees who are unlikely to pay attention to their healthcare benefits even if you skywrite the plan’s changes.

Their loss, right? No. It’s your loss.

Employees who don’t use their benefits properly can drive up your costs in terms of productivity loss from absenteeism, increased Workers’ Compensation claims, and turnover from low morale.

So how does an employer communicate plan design changes to an unengaged, unconnected, diverse employee population across multiple locations?

In a perfect world, there would be a close-knit workforce and consistent communication so it would be easy to touch every employee with messaging. But many workplaces are the polar opposite of that. Let’s take retail as an example.

Often there’s a corporate headquarters and several different districts. Many employees are part-time associates who aren’t sitting at work stations with computer access. Others may work in warehouses or drive delivery trucks. Still others are executives and middle management working in the headquarters or regional offices. So how do you reach everyone?

Creating a process for employee communications is vitally important. It needs to flow from the top. But even if it does, there’s often a dam in the way in the retail world; many retailers are reluctant to involve store managers in benefits communication because they want these individuals engaged in the business of selling merchandise and supervising sales associates. However, getting local leadership involved is critical to reaching hourly employees.

This is just one example of how employers can get stuck when it comes to creating true engagement with workers.

Solving the Attention Deficit
Once you’ve come to the realization that emails and memos are not going to move the needle, you need to figure out a new path forward. Every situation is different, because every employee population is different. For instance, in the retail example, perhaps it makes sense to provide computer access in stores so that employees can sign up for insurance during work hours. For those who are not comfortable conducting business online, it might be wise to provide a call center option so that they can speak with a human being. Some group employee benefits brokers provide employee advocacy support to assist with open enrollment and ongoing plan questions throughout the year.

It’s critical that employers embrace new ways of connecting with plan participants.

Still, you’re likely to have segments of workers who still won’t be moved to investigate their benefit plans at all. For instance, younger workers in the 19-25 age range, the so-called young invincibles, typically aren’t paying much attention to their health benefits. It’s important to figure out a strategy to get their attention and position them to make smart decisions. It matters for their health, and it matters for you because they could drive up your costs if they aren’t making wise decisions. A strategy could include a text message campaign, or perhaps a closed, internal social network platform. These could drive plan participants toward, for example, a company microsite devoted to smoking cessation or weight loss. From there, there are ways to engage employees further, potentially through gamification strategies.

The world of communication has changed. Internal audiences are barraged by messages from thousands of directions every day. This means that benefits managers have to embrace new communications methods in order to break through and have their message heard.

Yes, it may seem labor intensive. However, it’s critically important that employers embrace new ways of connecting with plan participants. The impact on their health, and the organization’s bottom line, can be significant.

©2016 Corporate Synergies Group, LLC. No part of this material may be republished or distributed without prior written consent.

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