With limited resources, time and funding, many employers end up relying on a messaging developed by various vendors. However, if a company’s messaging is not coordinated across all vendors, with either a single message or utilizing the company’s branding strategy, employees can be confused about who is offering what where the information is coming from - this can cause the employee to under-utilize or undervalue what is being offered.
Employers typically use multiple vendors to support their overall health management strategy. Whether they offer a specific program or a comprehensive strategy, partnering with these vendors for benefits education should be carefully planned. However employers often rely on the vendor to educate employees about core and voluntary benefits, which can result in generic communications that don’t resonate with employees and families.
To gain the most benefit from vendor communications, employers need to create a partnership that includes careful evaluation of their suitability to the task.
In a 2013 whitepaper by Colonial Life, the following key characteristics were highlighted for employers to review when selecting a vendor as a partner for employee benefits education:
A consultative, strategic approach to benefit planning and design - A benefits provider should work collaboratively with an employer as part of the human resources team. Vendors should be well-informed, honest, disciplined, creative, and open to shared leadership.
Ability to offer customized communications - A good benefits provider should be able to use a range of communication methods, from personal, face-to-face counseling sessions to paper brochures and e-based technologies. Materials should be offered in simple-to-understand terms. One-to-one communication can give the personalized attention needed to significantly improve employee understanding of benefits. Other value-added services include bilingual materials and services, personalized benefits statements and paycheck illustrations. All of these communications tools can help reinforce the value of employee benefits.
Nationwide enrollment capabilities - Today’s employers may have multiple locations and distribution centers scattered all across the country. Key technology staff and customer service personnel may be located at company headquarters, or even two time zones away. The ability to reach employees wherever — and whenever — needed is important for effective benefits communication and enrollment. Employers should look for vendors with a nationwide network of professional benefits counselors who take full advantage of automation and technology to coordinate enrollment across multiple locations.
Flexible enrollment technology - Benefits representatives should be able to co-browse over the telephone and Internet with employees, or employees should be able to enroll on their own. An online reporting dashboard can keep human resources managers apprised of the enrollment process and provide daily updates.