On Topic…In Depth

Summer 2019


In this edition of On Topic…In Depth, we interview two industry thought leaders to get their perspectives on how effective benefits communications assist in attracting and retaining the best talent.


Dan DaCosta, CEBS

As a health benefits consultant, what are some of the most important benefits, or aspects of benefits, that you feel employers should be regularly communicating to their employees?

Benefits are complex and one of an organization’s largest expenses, yet many treat the communication of benefits as an afterthought. Health care literacy is generally low and employees won’t investigate the difference between a coinsurance and copay, for instance, or a quantity limit and step therapy, until they are at the site of care. This leads to confusion and disappointment regarding the benefits employees have and feel they should receive.

Employers also need to do a better job communicating the value of the benefits they offer. Employer-provided benefits, health care in particular, are such an important part of the overall employee value proposition. However, many employees simply focus on their share of the costs during open enrollment without understanding the employer’s commitment to delivering benefits throughout the year.

In your opinion, what are some of the ways employers can best engage employees and make them more educated, more savvy, consumers of healthcare and maximize the value of their benefits?

First, employers must understand what their employees value.  Whether by simple survey or conjoint analysis in focus groups, it’s imperative that employers understand their workforce.  There is real opportunity for employers who gather and encourage feedback on their benefits and then act on the feedback to create value within the benefit plan for their employees.  When employees are engaged as part of the process, it creates a sense of ownership and illustrates to employees that they are valued.  This bi-directional communication between the employer and employees ensures clarity around what employees value and how best to engage with them.

Savvy starts with program construction. When employees are engaged as part of the benefits creation process, it imbues a sense of ownership, demonstrates to employees that they are valued and results in a benefits program that meets real employee need and expectation. Programs built with employee input – whether by simple survey or conjoint analysis in focus groups – are likely to be better utilized.

Employer-provided tools for success, and savvy, are also a must.

One tool is a professionally created benefits guide that clearly and succinctly outlines benefits. Because benefits and insurance terminology are challenging to those who don’t think about these things every day.  it should also contain a glossary of benefit terms that decodes the acronyms in which benefits professionals comfortably trade.  Lastly, the guide should  have contact information for benefit related resources.  A well done guide and communication campaign will reduce benefit complexity and, in turn employee confusion.

Another tool is a total compensation statement.  Total compensation statements outline the total cost of benefits offered and the share of the cost borne by the employer.  Communicating the total cost of benefits to employees will ensure that they appreciate and understand the organization’s commitment to them.

Lastly, provide communication in formats that are accessible to each cohort.  With five different generations in the workforce today, employers should meet the audience where they are most likely to be or risk missing an opportunity to inform.

Can you share a success story where consulting with an employer about benefits communications led to a win for that employer in terms of employee health, satisfaction, or retention?

I find communication is most successful when employers align their benefits communication with their own brand.  It makes the communication more meaningful and relevant to the employees and creates a stronger attachment between the employer, the benefits offered and their employees.  As an example, I once worked with a manufacturer of games and everything was focused around “gaming”. Open enrollment was positioned as the time to “make your move”.  In the open enrollment guide, “rules of the game” outlined eligibility and contributions, and a “winning game strategy” section provided a checklist of items that must be completed.  It sounds hokey, but it worked great. While it may take a bit more time, the return is worth it.

Ryann Paschal
Benefits Specialist,
Range Resources

As a Benefits Administrator, what are you most proud of in terms of what benefits your company offers its employees?
  • Range offers an overall wonderful benefits package to our employees, and I’m proud of that in general, however, I think we offer some benefits that aren’t necessarily as common in the industry that I’m especially proud of. January 1, 2018 we rolled out a Caregiver benefit provided by Cariloop. They provide a service to employees that is so great where employees can contact Cariloop, start a case if they are a caregiver, or have a family member that is a caregiver. In turn, they are assigned a coach who then can assist them in several areas, including:
    • Giving advice on how to start difficult conversations with loved ones regarding care
    • Help the caregiver navigate the different levels of transition within healthcare
    • Help the caregiver to understand the costs associated with care and how to prepare for them
    • Walk the caregiver through legal documents needed for care and referring to legal experts when necessary
    • Assist in finding providers that accommodate care needs (home health, rehab, skilled facilities, hospice, assisted living etc.)
    • Finding the right kind of doctor for physical changes or memory change
    • Help improve communication between caregivers and physicians
  • Effective January 1, 2019 we rolled out paid parental leave, adoption leave and caregiver leave (to include care of a parent, spouse or child). We felt we needed to offer some paid time off for these situations because we’ve seen so many employees needing to take off, in an already stressful/hard time, and then have to use their vacation or sick if there is any remaining. We labeled the leave into the following 4 categories:
    • Parental (Maternity or Paternity)
    • Adoption or Foster Care
    • Elder (Parent) Care
    • Spouse or Child Care
  • Each category is eligible for 10 days of paid time off (concurrently, not intermittently), and employees must file and be approved for FMLA to be eligible for the paid time off. Additionally, employees could be paid for 2 events per category per year. This was very appreciated and well received when we rolled it out, and we’ve seen more employees fill like they can take off to care for a sick parent whereas before they felt maybe they couldn’t, or they didn’t have the vacation etc. Although paid paternity leave is becoming more common, it’s still not as common in our industry, and we wanted to try being a leader in this area and show our employees how much we truly appreciate them, and value their personal life and the need to take care of themselves and their families.
How do you normally let your employees, or prospective employees, know about these benefits?
  • Typically we like to announce new benefits during Open Enrollment meetings that we hold in person, so it’s more personal. However, in some cases we can’t always do that because the benefits are rolled out at different times, so we have announced new benefits via all employees emails, such as the updated Parental leave. We feel getting up in front of the employees is so much more personal, and really helps drive the importance of that benefit rather than just emails or intranet posts. For prospective employees we have great benefit booklets (provided by Benecom??) that we hand out which really gives a great overview of all the wonderful benefits Range has to offer. We also provide these at our Open Enrollment meetings so employees can hold onto them and reference when/if needed.
Can you share a success story where communicating a specific benefit, or maybe a health promotion such as on-site flu shots or a steps challenge, led to a positive outcome?
  • Last year I rolled out a Weight Loss Challenge for the first time. I had some extra funds in my budget so I was able to add in some really great prizes for top 3 individuals and top 3 teams. This generated a lot of excitement because it helped motivate employees, family members and friends to start eating healthy, working out/walking etc. We had a lot of participation and saw really great results, with a total weight loss of 2,266 pounds between 178 participants. I heard from numerous participants at how much they enjoyed this challenge, and it really gave them the extra push and encouragement they needed to lose weight and start being more active.
  • We’ve also heard great feedback on the Cariloop benefit where employees have said it’s helped them be able to focus more on work at work, and removed stress because they aren’t having to do it all. Caregiving is very stressful and time consuming, and this benefit has really helped employees and for those who have utilized it, have really been able to see and appreciate the benefit that it is.