Our recent survey of large and midsized companies reveals that many decision-makers in healthcare benefits administration are investigating how to communicate more effectively with employees. Some feel hobbled by a shortage – or complete lack – of budgetary dollars for employee benefits communications. Others are trying to assess how they could make better use of what technology has to offer.
So Many Pressures, So Few Dollars
Even with Health Care Reform and the changing nature of work, the fact that the majority of workers obtain their healthcare benefits through their employer is not going to change any time soon. With an economic recovery underway, workers will be scrutinizing their employee benefits packages more carefully and, if they’re not happy with what they see, they may look to see what your competitors are offering. In the meantime, as the cost of providing coverage leapfrogs inflation every year, and Health Care Reform imposes new requirements on professionals working in human resources management and benefits administration, it’s tempting to put some aspects of employee benefits communications on the back burner. This is especially true if your budget for this area is stagnant or nonexistent.
Improving Communications Is Worth the Effort
However, it’s simply not enough to provide good healthcare benefits and hope your workers can navigate those benefits on their own. Employees need to be able to understand what they’re getting, especially when making critical decisions during open enrollment. If you can provide them with tools to help enable fast, direct and convenient access to their own benefits, then you’ll already be way ahead of many of your competitors. Your workers will have more control over how they spend their benefits dollars and, as a result, are more likely to feel more satisfied with their benefits and better engaged. In addition, your company may lower its overall costs by reducing the time your HR and benefits departments spend on administrative tasks such as answering inquiries or distributing information manually.
Improving Engagement While Impacting Benefits Costs
Decision Support Tools Lead the Way
Decision support tools are typically software applications that employees can use to compare and evaluate the different healthcare options offered in order to choose which option meets their needs. The most common types of tools offered today are:
- Flexible Spending Account (FSA) calculators
- Plan comparisons
- Medical cost calculators
- Wellness incentive modelers
Among the professionals working in benefits administration who responded to the survey, those who are offering decision support tools to their workforce today believe that doing so has helped to increase their employees’ understanding of benefits as well as their overall engagement.
Some Places to Start: Basic Tools, Outsourcing
Anywhere from half to nearly three quarters of large and midsized companies aren’t offering decision support tools today. They might do well to look at what their peers who are offering such tools are doing. Among those firms, about half offer tools throughout the year while the rest limit access to periods of open enrollment, qualified life events – or both. Even providing limited access is better than nothing, so that may be a place to start. Also realize that you don’t have to go it alone: many companies utilize a third-party service provider’s tools to handle the decision support aspect of benefits communications.
The Current Technological Landscape
The majority of large and midsized companies have a web-based portal that provides some access to benefits information, although in many cases that access is quite limited and functionality may be spread across different portals. Fewer than half of the companies surveyed provide benefits-related access via mobile devices such as smartphones, tablets and other portable devices. But as the use of mobile technology increases, so should the adoption of mobile apps in this area.
For more on this topic: Enhance Employee Benefits Communications With Web and Mobile Technologies
In summary, while most professionals working in benefits administration recognize the value of having better employee benefits communications, they’re not yet ready to put funding for certain tools and technologies at the top of the budget priority list.