What You Need to Know
- Companies have had to put benefits communication online.
- The workforce is still multi-generational.
- One result: Employers have seen that benefits communication can, and should, happen year round.
The COVID-19 pandemic brought several issues in employee benefits management into sharp focus, highlighting the need for effective employee communication.
The shift to remote work may have forced the hand of HR departments in updating materials for online delivery, but embracing technological advances in benefits platforms can help employers.
As workers return to the office, or settle into hybrid or permanent remote routines, HR professionals and their benefits advisors should lead with tech — particularly around digital communications and data-driven personalization efforts — as they strive to best meet employee needs.
1. Communication must be constant, not just something that occurs during benefits election.
In addition to highlighting the need for modernization of benefits elections, the pandemic also showed how important constant communication around benefits is for employees.
The pandemic did one thing right away — it made people reexamine their current benefits with a more critical eye. People wanted to be sure they or a loved one would be covered if they got sick.
When it comes to employee benefits, employees are looking to their employers to play the role of educator and counselor.
If you, as a benefits advisors, find that clients’ employees only think about benefits when the benefits are needed, or during the immediate election period, an “always on” communication strategy can encourage more engagement.
Signing up for benefits is an investment in the future, and with an always-on communication strategy — aided by technology — companies can make sure workers are getting the most out the benefits their employer provides.
Ongoing, meaningful communication can help employees think proactively about benefits, about what’s best for their families and when it is the right time to activate their benefits. The best enabler of this mindset shift is a smart technology platform and data strategy.
2. Leverage technology to streamline a complicated process.
The ongoing benefits communication needs to be focused on digital delivery methods, another trend accelerated by the pandemic and remote working.
Leveraging multiple channels and formats — from simple text-based emails, to mobile-enabled notifications, to deeper-dive videos and interactives — can help keep employees engaged in benefits selection.
Additionally, the benefits landscape is complex and only getting more so. The industry has been slowly moving away from in-person benefits selection, to management through third-party platforms, and that trend increased dramatically over the last 18 months.
There has also been a rise in use of voluntary, employee-pay-all benefits, according to data from Willis Towers Watson. While this is being driven mainly by the pandemic — with an increase in solutions like disability insurance, mental health benefits, and life insurance — that bigger trend is here to stay.
This means employers are often doing business with as many as a dozen or more carriers to cover all those needs. A well-designed benefits management platform can serve as an integration point, to bring the vendors and their offerings together, with a user-friendly dashboard for employees.
Technology-driven offerings like this not only help simplify and streamline the process, they can include tools to help employees select the right benefits for their demographic and situation.