Communicating a benefits take away is always a challenging exercise. However, if it is done properly and within the parameters of a well-designed communications strategy, the outcome need not be negative. When communicating any change in coverage to your plan members, the communication process should be well thought out and the message should be clear and concise.
Anytime a change to the benefits program is being implemented the communications should provide the following information:
- Clearly identify which benefits are changing and what the changes are
- Advise employees when the changes will take place
- Advise employees what the cost impact of the change will be
- Provide the reason that the changes are being made
- Provide employees with a resource for questions
Changes can be communicated through a variety of channels including memos, the company newsletter or intranet site but it is highly recommended to facilitate a live discussion about the changes whether it is in a town hall environment or face to face meetings. It is important to always communicate changes to employees in a timely manner.
If it is determined that a benefit change is required to keep your plan aligned to the company’s financial objectives, it is recommended that a communication strategy is well defined and delivered well in advance of the potential change.
The key to effectively communicating what may be viewed as a benefit take-away is to provide background information. Is the benefit being underused or overused? Are you replacing the benefit with another? Is it a purely financial decision? Any decision that might affect employees negatively should be backed up with a solid explanation. Detailing the specifics of the issue precipitating a change is important in order for employees to fully understand the company’s objective.
In order for change management to be successful, it is recommended that in addition to communicating the goal of the change (s), details of the organization’s overall benefits strategy are made available to employees.
The upside of effective communication is an employee group that understands the organizations commitment to providing benefits and who are likely more conscientious consumers of health and dental care. As with any communication, your strategy should be well defined and considered to be an opportunity to educate employees which creates buy in of the benefits strategy.