Hi there (👋🏽 waves) I’m Meisha, the Content Marketing Manager for PlanSource. I’m the force behind many of the blogs and resources that you may or may not have had the pleasure of reading on the PlanSource website. (If you haven’t, check it out, we have some pretty awesome content, if I do say so myself.)
I’m breaking down the third-wall in this post to give you (HR professionals, benefits advisers, my mom) a first-person perspective on why I, a millennial, personally feel that employee benefits education is critical for recruiting, engaging and maintaining your top talent.
A bit about me—I am relatively new to PlanSource. I joined the company in 2018 after an exciting five-year stint at a digital marketing agency. I was ready to turn the tables and work for an internal team, and I was ecstatic about the prospect of working for a growing tech company in my favorite city (Charleston).
The fact that I ended up at a company that works in the employee benefits space is a little ironic because even though I had been paying for my own benefits for over five years, I truly had no clue what I was paying for or how to use it. My family did not have the luxury of having employer-sponsored health care, so I spent most of my childhood in urgent care centers. That’s what my definition of ‘going to a doctor’ was; we did not have a primary care physician and we did not go for annual checkups. It’s fine, I survived.
When I finally graduated from college, it took me about nine months to land my first job. And, with this job came benefits! Woo hoo! I was so excited to be able to do ‘normal’ things like going to the dentist on a regular basis. However, I was so overwhelmed with the excitement of starting my first job and having no clue what I was doing professionally that I completely breezed through the onboarding process. I signed my life away and had no idea what I was actually signing up for. Admittedly, our HR department did not go out of their way to make sure I felt comfortable with my choices, but I also failed to ask questions or do any basic research. I picked the cheapest plans, ignored anything additional and basked in the glory of finally having insurance!
All was well until I actually started to use my insurance. I would go to the doctor and not understand that I still had to provide a payment—aka a co-pay. ‘Wait, why do I have to pay, I have insurance?’ Literally. I had no clue.
This lack of understanding was exacerbated by the bills that were provided through my health care providers. The breakdowns of my medical costs seemed to provide the bare minimum with no real explanation of what I was being charged for and what I was responsible for paying. I would get angry and just pay the bill without double-checking my policies or even just picking up the phone to ask a simple question. (#Millennials)
I also harbored resentment toward my employer, a sentiment that was shared with other employees. We’d often complain about our co-pays or premiums and how ‘crappy’ our insurance was. However, looking back, I truly believe this resentment came from a complete lack of understanding about our health care plans and coverage. And, whether you like it or not, employees talk.
Simply put, if employees do not understand their benefits offerings, they will not use them appropriately—if at all—and they might harbor resentment towards health care providers and even their employer. However, this is a completely preventable problem that is easily addressed via proper education and communication.
If I had known that my PPO plan offers more coverage upfront with a co-pay versus the High Deductible Plan, which provides a lower premium but more immediate out of pocket costs, I might have made a different plan selection. Or, at a minimum, I would not have been surprised and disgruntled at health appointments.
If I had known what life or disability insurance was for, I might have made the decision to purchase additional coverage (at no cost to the employer, might I add). Thankfully, I never ended up in a situation where I would have needed this additional coverage, but I immediately dismissed the entire premise because all I heard was ‘extra cost’ and tuned out the rest.
We also had identity theft protection, basic legal assistance and telemedicine, but I declined all of these ancillary perks because all I saw was another deduction from my paycheck.
The moral of the story? Education and communication are critical for connecting with your employees, whether it be future recruits or current employees. Not only will proper education and communication ensure that your workforce is comfortable and confident with their benefits selections, but it will also give them the peace of mind that their needs are met and they are not ‘wasting’ money on benefits they do not need or understand.
Thankfully, working at a benefits administration software company has helped me have a much better understanding of my benefits choices, general benefits lingo and how I can actually use my benefits. I still have a long way to go, but I do feel much more confident in my selections and have yet to have any massive cost surprises.
Do you want your employees to have this same level of confidence in their benefits? It won’t happen overnight, but taking the time to plan out and execute a benefits education and communication plan will have a huge long-term impact on your recruiting efforts and employees’ experience from start to finish.
A few tips on benefits communication and education
Apply the KISS principle
Don’t assume your employees know everything—or anything! Of course, you don’t want to talk down to them. You likely have a diverse workforce and employees with different levels of benefits comprehension. Therefore, you should have tools and resources readily available for the newbs (like me) but also allow the benefits pros to skip the 101 materials. And, cut down on the jargon. You (hopefully) know the ins-and-outs of PPOs and HDHPs but don’t assume that your employees do. Instead, break down the benefits lingo into layman’s terms and take the time to actually explain what terms and definitions mean.
Use various methods of education and communication
Again, you likely have a diverse workforce and any single method is going to miss a portion of your employee base. In-person presentations are a starting point, but let’s be honest, they can be drawn out and unengaging if run incorrectly. Consider alternative in-person methods like shorter “lunch-and-learns” that cover specific topics. You could even make this a monthly series! And, work in other communication tools and channels. Email is a tried and true method of reaching large groups of your workforce while resources like educational videos and a benefits website are a convenient way to provide on-demand access to materials and information.
Invest in the proper tools
I cannot stress this enough. The enrollment platform, if you want to call it that, at my last company left a lot to be desired. There were no educational materials within the platform and no help if I had a question during enrollment. Not every company can splurge on an enterprise solution, which is understandable. Tech can be expensive. However, using a platform that has the features and functionality to close the education and confidence gap will go a long way to help your employees feel more secure about their choices and can take some of the administrative pressure off of your already overwhelmed HR team. Take a close look at your enrollment platform this year and solicit feedback from employees. What do they honestly think about the enrollment process? Do they truly understand their benefits? The answer might surprise you if you take the time to ask.
If you think your benefits enrollment process could use a refresh and cost is a concern, talk to your benefits adviser about partnering with a company that offers credits to offset the cost of technology. They do exist (*ahem*PlanSource) and it can drastically reduce what you pay to administer and manage your benefits while providing a premium experience for you and your employees.
I hope this sheds some light on a true millennial perspective on benefits education and communication. Take the time to understand your workforce, their education needs and their communication preferences. And, work on a holistic plan to address the needs of your entire workforce, not just one group or method. Your recruiters and your employees will thank you.
My challenge to you is to incorporate at least one new education method or communication channel into your open enrollment this year. Let’s take baby steps towards a better benefits experience!
Need a few tips? Check out this free resource on employee benefits education tips for ideas on how to get started.