Engaging employees to use their benefits
Employee benefits are one of the most important tools for retaining and recruiting employees. They are also quite expensive for the employer and the employee. Too often, utilization falls short, underselling the value of a strong employee benefits offering.
In order to receive a positive return on investment (ROI) for employee benefits, engaging employees is key. Employees that have a clear understanding of their benefits will use their insurance for preventative care or when they first fall ill, instead of waiting until they are in the emergency room. A clear understanding is achieved through one central location for important information, comprehensive education during benefits enrollment, and support for smart decision-making.
A central location for the important information
A centralized location for relevant benefits information gives employees seamless access to their plans and increased knowledge of how to use them.
Creating one central location does not mean uploading informational flyers to a shared folder in the cloud. Instead, it’s about creating a space for employees to conduct all of their benefits activities, from start to finish. Furthermore, it’s important for this information to be available anywhere, at any time.
One of the most popular examples of a central, online location for benefit information is an online enrollment platform. With most online enrollment platforms, employees have the ability to:
- Learn about the plans available to them and the associated costs
- Complete benefits enrollment
- Access the necessary contact information for carriers and service providers
- View plan and policy numbers at any time during the year
Mobile devices present a great opportunity to increase access to benefit information for employees. At EaseCentral, the benefits administration software company I run, we recently looked at the volume of enrollments and account access on different devices in 2017. We found that nearly 25 percent of employee users viewed their benefits via a mobile phone or tablet and 14 percent completed benefits enrollment their enrollment on those devices.
Voluntary benefits and other service providers are using mobility and accessibility to help employees experience the true value of their benefits. Telemedicine is a great example, reducing costs and bringing the doctor to the employee via video chat. But many telemedicine providers struggle to drive activation and utilization. MDLIVE recently released a mobile chatbot which enables employees to activate their employer-sponsored telemedicine accounts by sending a text message. Consider choosing solutions that not only offer a cost advantage but also support you in driving utilization in their offering.
Provide comprehensive benefits education during open enrollment
It’s natural for employees to think about health benefits the most in the months prior to and during open enrollment. This is an opportune time to offer comprehensive benefits education for increased engagement.
With more plans designed to account for rising premiums and deductibles, benefits are becoming more complex. This means plan education is even more necessary for high utilization rates.
For example, if employees have access to health savings accounts (HSAs), make a presentation that explains how an HSA complements a high deductible health plan and what factors to consider when deciding how much money to contribute. If the HSA you offer requires an employee to set up an account with the HSA provider or to send a form to their HR department, it’s important to explain how to do that.
The same goes for non-health-related benefits. As student debt rises, loan repayment assistance programs are a great benefit for millennials entering the workforce. But employees won’t utilize them unless they know how to. It’s important to communicate the interest rates, setup details, and any perks that make the benefit they’re offered better than their current loan payment program.
Video consumption is on the rise with sites like Youtube and Facebook becoming ubiquitous and telecommunication companies offering unlimited data place. Videos can be a great asset for plan education, whether they’re about HSAs, loan repayment programs, or medical plans in general. In fact, 78 percent of people watch online videos every week, and 55 percent view online videos every day.
Many insurance carriers have videos about their different plan types. These videos include information about the plan, how the benefit can or should be used, and contact information if assistance is needed. Additionally, if employees are using a type of online enrollment software as mentioned earlier, a video explaining how to access the software, complete enrollment, and access benefits in the months following enrollment is key.
Enrollment firms present another tool to improve benefit utilization across all your groups. There are enrollment firms you can work with to offer employers and employees 1-on-1 assistance, resources, and supplemental plan expertise during open enrollment. Enroller firms often use technology to support these efforts, making it easier for employees to understand what benefit options are available to them, the total cost per pay period, and what the best option is for them and their dependents. They not only cover what the voluntary benefit is and how to use it, but they also take employees’ medical benefits into consideration when offering instruction. This way, employees understand exactly how the voluntary benefit will improve their access to care, and in which instances they should take advantage.
Offer tools for better decision-making
Providing employees with tools that help them make smart decisions about their health benefits is a growing trend.
Smarter health care decisions can be encouraged with cost comparison and quality measurement technology, which bring health care quality, access, and out-of-pocket costs to the forefront. Employees are able to set realistic expectations about when they can see a doctor, what their visit will cost, and what type of care to expect. All of these factors encourage employees to utilize their benefits before being forced to go to the emergency room, reducing future premium costs for the employer and medical bills for the employee.
To illustrate, think of a new employee who moved from another state or country to join a company. Not only do they have to elect new benefits and familiarize themselves with those new plans, but they also have to find new physicians. Cost comparison and quality measurement technology tools allow them to use the internet to identify which doctors are highly-regarded, taking new patients, and accept their insurance. Advocacy services are helpful in this case too, because they can help a patient transfer their medical records and decipher regulations that weren’t present in their previous network. The easier it is for them to find and use medical care, the likelier they are to use their benefits.
Engagement leads to action
Without driving utilization, employers can pay unnecessarily high premiums and create unhealthy and unhappy employees. Remember to give employees access relevant information in one central location, comprehensive education about their plans, decision making support.