Managing Employee Benefit Plans – Communication Strategies

An effective employee benefits communication strategy begins with developing a calendar:

  1. Record the date your organization needs to complete and submit annual open enrollment material to your insurance carriers
  2. Work backwards from the open enrollment due date to determine (and record on your calendar) dates to:
    1. Distribute open enrollment materials to employees
    2. Open enrollment meetings (if applicable)
    3. Make plan option choices at the firm level
      1. Premiums and plan choices
      2. Employee contribution rates
    4. Review renewal plans and rates; and if applicable
  3. Remember to include these dates on your calendar
    1. Update payroll system for open enrollment changes – employee contribution changes
      1. Note: this will save a lot of resources trying to retroactively correct payroll deductions and accumulators
    2. Any regulatory required notices. Whenever you run across a requirement, simply add it to your calendar.
      1. Employer reporting of 1094-C / 1095-C (if applicable)

Whether your firm uses a benefits broker or benefits consultant – develop your own calendar.  Have your broker or consultant provide you with their version of the calendar and compare the two and modify each calendar to come to a consensus, final calendar.  Provide your calendar to the executive or management team to obtain buy in and feedback to the schedule.  Often it is firm’s partners, owners and executives that cause delays in benefit processes – many times because they were unaware of their required participation.

Update your calendar at any time during the year that you become aware of an addition or new requirement.

An excel spreadsheet works well for this type of calendar because you can add, change, delete and sort easily.  After the calendar is developed, list each document for materials needed to complete the calendar entry.  Then work backwards to determine and develop a start date and required completion date for each document or communication piece.  For each communication indicate whether it is an email, direct mail, hand-out, payroll stuffer, web posting, etc.  This will allow you to properly estimate lead times and distribution costs.

For each communication – have an employee that is not involved in benefit administration at your organization, review it to make sure it makes sense and if there is an action required by the employee (completing a form, making a decision) that is being communicated effectively.  Often times, in benefit administration and health plan lingo, those of us that work with it all the time think it is second nature, but to many employees this is a very confusing foreign world.

In addition to your annual calendar, keep a check list of communication requirements for new hires and employment terminations.

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