Employee Communication

Apr 09, 2012

As an employer, communicating with your workforce is a delicate balance of being informative and trying to pursue a particular company objective.  It becomes even more challenging if the
central theme is a sensitive issue such as healthcare and benefits. So how should an employer effectively communicate around these sensitive issues without the perception of interference in employee choice? The simple answer is….delicately and straightforwardly.

Before taking on the challenge of the message, the issue must be worth communicating. An effective and directed communication strategy can impact how employees consume healthcare and in turn affect benefit plan costs. There tends to be very little understanding into the complexities that go into the consumption of healthcare benefits. We happily take our prescription from our physician to the pharmacist without much thought beyond what we pay out of pocket. Although this is a broad and sweeping statement it is probably not too far off for most employees.  With that basic foundation, how then can we expect the average employee to fully understand the intricacies of their plan, employer changes that may have been made to curtail costs, and how they can play a role in cost reduction. The importance of how the message is crafted is as critical as the “what” is being communicated. Below are a few thoughts to help you tackle your next benefits communication…..

Determine the objective behind the message. Is it to inform employees their plan is changing, or ask employee’s to be more accountable when they purchase benefit related items? If the writer is unclear on what their objective is, results will certainly fall short or the audience will be left confused. As an example, if the issue is drug costs and dispensing fees, the communication will be much more effective if the message specifies specific pharmacies in their region and average costs at each pharmacy, rather than simply asking employees to shop at low cost providers for their medications.

Be clear about the message. Concise communication that is straightforward about what is being desired is essential. Don’t expect your employees to read between the lines and pick up on the hints that you are dropping. If the objective is to inform employees that their individual choice in pharmacy may have a direct relationship to their out of pocket costs, then it should be stated that clearly.

Don’t be afraid to bring others into the conversation when crafting your message. An abundance of information is available from internal resources, insurance companies and independent advisors. Use the resources around you to craft your voice and message. Data for your message can be obtained from credible sources to support a certain position or perspective

Use Positives more than Negatives. Using the above example, think about how many announcements start with a negative, followed by unpleasant consequences? For example, if we don’t cut claim costs, we’ll have to start cutting benefits or having employees increase their cost share.  Focusing on the advantages of shopping at particular pharmacies and how employees actually can make a difference to their costs and the longevity of plan will make the audience feel more engaged and part of the solution.

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