By Cammie Scott
Change or Be Changed
Some decisions are tough to make. This morning I worked with the executive team of a group of just over 30,000. The decision was made to terminate the Director of Information Systems. He was a long time employee who had been very committed to the organization. His mistake was in failing to realize that methods of communication and the way data is transferred and received has changed. Instead of being viewed by his peers as an asset he was viewed as a bottleneck. Employees desired ways to find company and customer information on their own. Instead of embracing their desires, he asked everyone to come to him and make requests.
Perception is Belief
The benefit season is upon us. This is the time of year when employers are reviewing budgets and making decisions on allocating resources. For most employers, benefit expenditures are second only to wages and staffing costs yet most employees have no idea of the cost, what is available or how to use it. Employees may not perceive the real value of what is being offered to them. A lack of understanding leads to a lack of value.
The demographics of the workforce have changed. There are now 5 generations working. Each of these have unique values, desires and values. Boomers prefer paper communications and face to face classroom style teaching. Millennials grew up with computers and smart phones. They look for apps and ways to find information online. The challenge comes in communicating and engaging across all generations and skill levels.
Remember the How
Employers sometimes make the mistake of focusing all the effort on what to offer and not enough on how to offer it. The labor market is tough. Employers are struggling to find and retain top talent. Benefits are an important component of attracting good recruits and reducing turnover. Problems are encountered when employees don’t value what is offered to them or how it benefits them.
According to Pew Research within the next 4 years Millennials will make up half of the workforce. They desire quick self service solutions that can be accessed 24/7. They want to be engaged at all levels. The Digital Generation follows them. There has never been a time in their life when they did not have a computer. The demand for online services and quick solutions will only increase with their entrance to the workforce.
The gentleman I described at the beginning of this article could not make this shift. He could not transform his style of work and communications to match that of a changing workforce. With all of the regulatory changes and compliance issues, it can be hard to develop a communication strategy that will engage not only Millennials, but all generations in the enrollment process. In the end it is all about communication and employee engagement.
Tips and Tricks
- Help! Enlist the help of your broker. They work with a variety of different employers and see what works and what doesn’t work. They often know of communication pieces that are already created by carriers or their organization that can be customized to suit your individual needs. Recent studies suggest employers are leveraging the skills of brokers more and more. Ask them for help and suggestions.
- Plan – Develop a communication plan early and follow it. Having a plan that details who will do what by when can help alleviate stress in so many areas. This is especially true when you are changing plan designs or altering policies.
- Messaging – This is a great time for companies to emphasize company values and mission. Employees want to be a part of something big. They want to feel they are moving the organization forward. They want to feel valued. Help employees draw the line between benefits and the value the company places on them as employees. This can easily be overlooked or missed. If the employees do not perceive the value of programs then it really doesn’t matter what you spend on them. The old saying, “they don’t care what you know until they know you care” rings true. This is a great time to let them know you care. Marketing and communication departments can offer assistance in creating and crafting your messaging.
- Execution – It’s not enough to make a plan. You must actually implement it. Someone has to make the reminders for the paychecks, send the emails, upload the data and test they system. Have a timeline and stick to it.
- Communicate – Think outside the box on educating and reminding employees of upcoming enrollments. When in doubt, over communicate. It takes a number of times and methods to get employees ready to make decisions. Tell people exactly what you want them to do and when you want them to do it.
- Put reminders with pay stubs
- Hang posters
- Send email reminders
- Mail postcards to their house. Often one person in a family makes the insurance and benefit decisions and that may not be the employee.
- If you don’t have one, consider a closed Facebook group for company information
- Tweet about it. Yep, you heard that right. Many Americans get much of their news and communications on Twitter. If you don’t believe me just ask the President. This can also be an effective tool in recruiting new employees and gaining notoriety as an employer who cares for employees.
- Put together a video campaign. This can be done with YouTube, Vevo or other media including dare I mention the dreaded Snapchat. Employees like short, bite sized bits of information dripped out to them as opposed to long drawn out presentations.
- Use a text message service. These are great not only for open enrollment, but for introducing new policies, recognizing people and disseminating information.
- Simplify – Use pictures and graphics. The easier you can make the communication and the process, the more success you will have. Be sensitive to those who speak other languages, come from different cultures and those who do not read well. Make it easy to understand and comprehend.
- Have fun! We live in a culture who loves to be entertained. We love videos and engagement. Think of all the cat videos and funny baby videos. Use those to your advantage. Play a game where you post clues on Twitter. Do a quiz at the end of a meeting for fun prizes. It doesn’t have to cost a lot of money to get people moving, talking and engaging with one another. Make it a meeting people want to come to instead of a necessary drudgery they must endure.
We are all guilty of looking only at what is before us and not at the big picture; the grand scheme of what is before us. Open enrollment can be a great time to build relationships and enhance your own professional skillset. Take a few minutes to learn about industry terms and trends. Hone your planning skills. Execute on the tasks assigned and grow your credibility as a person who can be trusted to get the job done. Increase your ability to manage projects and improve your communication skills. Choose to grow yourself and make this enrollment season a time to look forward to instead of a dreaded time of meetings and technology struggles. Embrace the challenge and conquer the beast of the enrollment season.