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Keys to Communication

Posted by on Sep 5, 2017 in News, People

In this article published in the September 2017 issue of BenefitsPRO, Sutter Health Plus Vice President of Sales Rob Carnaroli discusses how brokers can best serve customers by providing their expertise.

Get Personal

Employees crave knowledge from trusted sources through personalized and customized communications. Developing the right strategy is key to ensuring benefits communication campaigns resonate with employees and boost their overall knowledge of the benefits provided.

If companies are looking to retain and attract the very best talent, personalized benefits communications will help them stand out from competitors. A successful campaign implementation requires clear communication built around content that is customized to the employee and delivered to them at the right time and place.

This four-step plan will help your clients communicate like a marketer:

  1. PlanDetermine what types of communication make the most sense for employees. For example, millennials will read texts, but don’t count on an email catching their attention.
  2. InformGet messaging heard by choosing a memorable theme for your communications; use multiple communication methods; and keep your messaging clear, concise and consistent.
  3. EnergizeKeep your message top of mind for employees.
  4. Follow-upOne of the best communication plans is following up. Finding out what went well, what needs improvement, and reviewing your plan will allow you to make adjustments while it’s fresh in your mind. Nancy Sansom, CMO, PlanSource

Times Have Changed

In my experiences as a licensed broker who works directly with HR team members daily, there are five things you can do to ensure that your clients’ communications strategy around open enrollment is in-step with their business goals and the diverse needs of their workforce.

Go digital! In addition to the in-person open enrollment meeting and prep sessions your clients’ HR teams should have scheduled with employees, encourage them to post all their related benefits documents, notices and changes online, where employees can easily access them at any time of the day. Additionally, a good online enrollment solution should help employees make the best decisions, with help from decision-support tools and educational resources, such as videos.

Develop a list of commonly used health insurance words and FAQs. By giving employees the tools they need to understand their benefits, you will help your clients’ HR teams improve operational efficiency by cutting down on the amount of individual engagement required of them. It will also help them demonstrate their commitment to educating employees and making sure they are getting the most out of their benefits.

Encourage clients to take credit for a portion of health care costs their organization covers. This goes a long way in demonstrating to employees a company’s commitment to their health and financial security. In addition, employees are likely to appreciate the transparency in costs as they budget for the year.

Help employees do the math! HR teams should help employees consider the total financial picture in their benefits planning, which might include factoring in their prescription drug costs for the year and considering ancillary coverage that may offset some of the long term financial burden.

Boost training efforts and highlight executive support. Help your clients develop the tools they need to do their job. For example, conduct a short webinar (30 minutes, plus a Q&A session) that walks employees through their open enrollment process. Record it and share a link via email, internal social media or the client’s company intranet. Also, be sure to highlight executive support around the company’s benefits strategy and related communication efforts. Amy Christofis, director, client services, Connecture

Prep Work

Before you can effectively educate someone else, you need to have a full grasp of the topic. That’s why it’s necessary to carefully consider an employer’s complete benefits package and their goals before determining the best way to share this information with employees.

Preparation. Taking time to understand an employer’s benefits offering and their goals is a part of the preparation that goes into effective benefits communication. But preparation shouldn’t end there. It can be helpful to take the long-view and lay out a plan for what you want to share and how you are going to reach employees in the coming years.

Offer a personal touch. There are many tools you can use for benefits communication, but there is still no substitute for face-to-face meetings with a benefits expert. This is probably because the employee gets a much more personalized experience when they meet face-to-face. They can ask questions and understand how their benefits relate specifically to their situation. This helps them make the best possible decision for themselves and their families—and that’s how you know the messaging is working. Dan Johnson, vice president of sales and marketing, Trustmark Voluntary Benefit Solutions

Don’t Stop

Employees’ needs are unmet when it comes to learning about their benefits. According to research from MetLife:

  • They can’t navigate the benefits information they receive
  • They don’t have the time or energy to dig in
  • They don’t know who to turn to with questions
  • And, when they don’t understand their benefits, they assume they don’t need them

This means that employers, in partnership with advisers and carriers, have a big opportunity to boost engagement, productivity and loyalty. The following strategies can help you boost the perceived value of benefits.

Streamline enrollment to help employees navigate. By integrating voluntary offerings into your existing benefits program and offering them alongside traditional benefits, you not only demonstrate your support for the benefit, but help to streamline employees’ overall benefits experience.

Create simplified, digestible information that’s easy for busy employees to understand. Consider adding a “Did You Know?” section on your benefits website or article on your company intranet to post quick highlights about some of your voluntary offerings.

Provide personalized information aligned with life events to make benefits more relevant. Meet employees where they are with personalized messages and materials reflecting life events or life stages.

Provide well-equipped resources for questions. Provide the opportunity for one-on-one consultations with benefits enrollment representatives, employees’ preferred resource for benefits questions. If staffing is a concern, consider leveraging a benefits communications firm to assist.

Don’t stop communicating when open enrollment is over. One way to communicate regularly with employees about benefits it to leverage national events or recognition months. Another opportunity to continue the dialogue on benefits outside of open enrollment is through financial education workshops. Ingrid Tolentino, CEO, Hyatt Legal Plans, a MetLife company

Be the Expert

Brokers can best serve customers by knowing the current market landscape well, speaking confidently about it and sharing that knowledge with customers. Offer information on changes and trends as well as your expertise and commentary to create value and deliver insights to your clients. The ability to weed through and analyze information in the context of market trends and customer needs is where your expertise will shine.

Online tools and technology can help brokers further demonstrate their expertise. For example, a blog or engaging in social media can help attract prospects and deliver added value to existing customers. These tools are perfect avenues for sharing community information, recognizing customer achievements, responding to questions and more.

Today’s consumers expect a digital experience, but it’s the brokers who build relationships that will stand out in the marketplace. Relationship building continues to be the single-most important factor in earning business. Rob Carnaroli, Vice President of Sales, Sutter Health Plus