Communications Tips to Help Your Employees Make the Most of Their New Medical Benefits

Posted on Jan 24, 2017 | 0 comments

January is the perfect time to remind employees of a few simple tips that could save them considerable time and money before they make their first trip to the doctor with their new employee benefits plan. Bring your new insurance card with you. Also be sure to toss out your old card to avoid confusion. Didn’t receive your new benefits card? You might be able to print out a temporary one from your provider online to cover you until your new one arrives. Look for information on how to do this on your company’s benefits website or contact your HR manager for support. Prepare to pay. The amount of your co-pay will depend on the type of plan you’ve chosen. HMOs/PPOs generally carry lower co-pays at the point of service, but they charge higher premiums year-round. Typical co-pays with these plans range from $10 – $50 per office visit. HDHPs (High Deductible Health Plans) carry higher service charges at the point of purchase, but lower premiums year-round. HDHPs are usually paired with Health Savings Accounts (HSAs) that can help you offset higher fees through pre-tax savings. One of the most helpful sites we’ve seen on HSAs can be found here. Know before you go. Go online to your benefits website or call your provider to determine the amount you should expect to pay for your visit. Confirm your prescriptions. Old medicines are routinely displaced by generics or new preferred alternatives—verify your approved prescriptions with your new provider by looking up their “formulary” list online. Check for tips on reducing your prescription costs. HR leaders should make sure that your employee benefits website is easily accessible from your Intranet homepage so that employees have easy access to the information they will need as they make that first unexpected trip to the doctor with their new employee benefits plan. A simple one-pager with the tips above will go a long way towards helping your employees become better healthcare consumers. Be sure to include links to your employee benefits website and contact information for local HR representatives as well. Share...

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Three Simple Tips for Creating Employee Communications That Connect and Engage

Posted on Oct 28, 2015 | 0 comments

Most of us are over-extended at work and at home. It takes a near miracle to get our attention in this day and age of non-stop advertising. Our clients are increasingly aware that their employees are just not absorbing the information they put out there. Simply having the information “out there” is no longer enough.  Your message must be easy to find, memorable, and available at a moment’s notice. Here’s how we’ve helped our clients break through some of today’s most common challenges with employee communications. Problem #1: Your Intranet should be on an episode of TLC’s Hoarders. Sadly, it’s not just your Intranet. Our entire lives are cluttered with information. It’s impossible to tune in only to the information we’re seeking when our lives are littered with print ads, emails, internet ads, radio, tv, billboards, in-app ads, etc. Your job as Leaders of your organization is to ruthlessly summarize and organize important information for your employees. You must commit to removing extraneous and outdated information that’s obscuring the path you’re trying to lay. We help clients clean up and replace online content monthly. We go in again annually to do a deeper purge. This little bit of consistency pays off big time by keeping this task from being both costly and overwhelming. Problem #2: You sound like the adults from every Charlie Brown special ever. Remember that awful “wah wah wah” voice? That’s what you sound like when you slip into autopilot to just get a message out there for your employees. As leaders in your company, it’s not likely your first time at the communications rodeo. So it’s easy to fall back on your old tricks in an attempt to quickly check one more thing off of your to-do list. It’s important to remember that you’re not just trying to get the information out the door – you’re trying to connect with people. Boring old corporate memos and boilerplate language do not create connection. They create disengagement. When you’re communicating, remember that you hired PEOPLE. People remember stories. They remember moments. They remember novelty. A little bit of humanity, humor and storytelling go a long way towards winning your employees’ attention. Before your next urgent memo races out the door, ask yourself, “do I feel connected to the value of this message and its role in improving the business or my life?” We work in an era when businesses can be warm, emotional and vulnerable. Your humanity is the scary magic place where engagement is lurking. Problem #3: You’re out of sight and out of mind. Like it or not, smart phones are here to stay. Increasingly, employees who have no computer access at the office rely exclusively on smart phones as their connection to the Internet. If you’re only publishing newsletters, posting information on your Intranet, or leaving flyers out in the break rooms then you’re missing out on most of your employees’ primary gateway to information—smart phones. Even employees with regular access to a computer in the office are looking for answers to questions about benefits or other work-related programs and services outside of the office. We continue to guide our clients toward the use of public-facing, mobile-optimized websites to make sure that employees and their families have easy access to the information they need. Our Mobile Benefits Connection™ app is helping employees and their covered dependents access important benefits information in the moment when making consumer decisions about their health, insurance, and retirement. Getting employees to absorb critical information will always be a challenge. We’re competing with too many other mediums and messages. Wherever we can simplify,...

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3 Simple Solutions to Maximize Your Communications Budget

Posted on Oct 30, 2014 | 0 comments

It’s that time again—when everyone’s scrambling to get their budgets finalized and submitted for the year ahead. It is stressful when you think of having to anticipate all of your communication needs for a full year. There’s always the possibility that a catchall category like “crisis communications” might be used for a need you didn’t anticipate, but corporate budgets can be notoriously unforgiving. They can also be the source of heated debate when it comes to divvying up the limited pool of resources. Before you get too stressed about mapping out next year’s needs and scheming up ways to earmark secret funds for your group, we thought we’d share some quick tips to help you make the most of your communications budget. Sometimes the smallest tweaks can help you make the most of your money. Here are three simple solutions to help you stretch your communications dollars and avoid breaking the bank. Go Evergreen. With a little extra expense on the front-end we’re helping clients reduce the back-end costs for delivering employee meetings by writing, designing and producing animated video presentations. Any HR Manager or benefits consultant will tell you – after about the fourth or fifth time delivering the same presentation your ability to deliver the same quality and depth of information begins to waver. By leveraging presentations we’ve already created into animated videos with professional voice-over we enable our clients to reach more employees, with the same consistent messaging, but with LESS travel! For clients with multiple locations across the country (and in some cases, around the globe), the translation of meeting materials into video presentations provides major cost savings. Go Mobile One of the simplest changes we help our clients make is the transition to lower-cost mobile solutions. Whether it’s the delivery of a high-impact email in place of a postcard, or a mobile version of the old benefits wallet card, clients who go mobile are saving big bucks on printing and shipping these days. Go Smaller It may take some effort to find a smaller agency with the right talent and skills to suit your needs but the numbers are on your side. Big agency billing rates can top out anywhere between $450 and $900 per hour. What if you worked with an agency who billed at a rate of one-third or LESS than the big consulting firms? And what if those agencies housed top talent with just as much experience or more? They’re out there. (HINT: Lab Monkey Communications is one of them). As you put the finishing touches on your budget for next year, remember that it’s not always the big dollar project that makes the biggest impact. Smaller tweaks can be just as effective, easier to implement, and easier to get approved. Whether you’re planning for next year or looking for ways to spend that last little bit of money from this year’s budget, consider the advantages of going evergreen, going mobile, and going smaller. Share...

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5 Reasons Mobile Communications Are Smarter Than Ever

Posted on Oct 21, 2014 | 0 comments

Internal communications isn’t special. Yep, sorry. You’re not special. You are subject to the same challenges and obstacles of any other marketer vying for the attention of your employees. So, what does that mean for you? It means that your internal communications strategy must embrace the same technology and outlets that every other advertiser is using to reach your employees. The strategies and tactics of yesterday no longer apply. The days of the beautifully bound New Hire kit living on a shelf in your employee’s cubicle are behind us. The kits have been replaced with a grab bag of web links, intranet tabs, and emailed PDF’s. If your communications are living behind a firewall, only available on your company Intranet, or getting tossed into the recycle bin with all the other junk mail it may be time to go mobile. Here are five reasons a mobile platform belongs in your employee communications strategy…   Timing is everything. If you’re a good employer, your people get to go home at some point every day, right? So what happens when an employee is off site—whether that’s at home, the doctor’s office, traveling for work, or just working in the field away from a computer? Do they just get a backlog of “important” updates when they come into the office? Or are you able to reach them beyond the office walls with the tools and information they need to make the work and life decisions that impact your business? Thanks to the conveniences of modern technology we have become a culture of instant gratification. The ability to take swift action on important initiatives is a key driver in participation and the ultimate achievement of your targeted outcomes. With a mobile platform as part of your strategy you empower employees to make decisions in the moment as the needs arise so they don’t have to remember to take action later. Credibility is critical. Consistent communication between management and employees is the key to building credible and trustworthy relationships. When you leverage the simplicity and convenience of mobile tools it becomes easier to communicate with employees. When it’s easier to communicate, it happens more often. When you communicate more often the relationship improves. Your employees aren’t the only ones depending on you.  You may never see or even know some of the most influential people behind your Company. They’re behind the scenes, off-site, and they may have never stepped foot in your offices. They’re the spouses, children and families of your employees—and you can’t reach them via all-employee memo or the company Intranet. You HAVE TO go beyond the walls to reach some of the most influential people in your employees’ lives. Mobile platforms make it convenient for your employees and their families to leverage the benefits and opportunities that keep your people safe, healthy and loyal to your Company. It opens a direct line between you and the support system that keeps your people on track beyond the walls of work. Smart phones are the fastest growing platform.  The data demonstrating the furious rise in smart phone usage is undeniable: 91% of all people on earth have a mobile phone¹ 56% of people own a smart phone¹ 50% of mobile phone users, use mobile as their primary Internet source¹ 66% of emails are now opened on a smart phone or tablet² If you’re not on your employees’ smart phones, chances are you’re not being heard by 50% of your audience! Engagement. It’s the holy grail of HR goals. Engaged employees are the drivers of our businesses. They make our lives easier by showing up,...

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Three Tips for Moving BEYOND the ACA Conversation with Employees

Posted on Jun 25, 2014 | 0 comments

The words “Affordable Care Act” and “Obamacare” still manage to spark passionate debate at the dinner table. People are quick to leap on their soapboxes and spout personal horror stories about that “dreadful enrollment site,” the rolling enrollment period fiasco of 2014, and the myriad other ways the law is hitting home for them. The initial rollout and the on-again-off-again “deadlines” kept so many of us guessing our way through open enrollment season last year. It was enough to make you wish you’d never heard the words “health care reform” at all. The Atlanta chapter of the International Association of Business Communicators (IABC) took a chance this week by dedicating the entire hour of their monthly luncheon to the discussion of the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) impact on benefits communications. Judging by the packed room, most of us are indeed ready to deal with the issue and speak those three letters (ACA) in public again. I had the pleasure of moderating an interactive discussion between IABC members and our panel of experts, which included Elizabeth Byerly of Towers Watson and Kerry Parker of Kaiser Permanente. Though the wounds of last year’s enrollment season still feel fresh, we find ourselves once more in the war room mapping out communications strategies for the year ahead. In the spirit of sparing our colleagues and clients any undue stress, I thought I’d quickly share three key tips and strategies that came out of the day’s interactive session.   1) Stop bringing up the $%&#@$ Affordable Care Act all the time! Face it. We’re well into the post-ACA era. It is our new normal. Your employees GET IT by now – things are changing because of the Affordable Care Act. You may have been forced into some difficult decisions by the ACA but you can’t keep laying blame with the law for every unpopular change you have to communicate. Your employees don’t want you to join them in the ranks of the frustrated and confused, they want you to LEAD them to better solutions and a greater understanding of how to deal with this new reality. You don’t serve them by hiding behind the ACA as an excuse for why things are “just so bad and awful now.” Effective leaders are embracing the realities brought about by the ACA and rolling them into the broader context of their overall business strategy so that employees understand what’s expected of them in response to the changes ahead. Focus more on your Employee Value Proposition and less on the ACA as you educate employees about changes in your benefits structure. Sure there will be times when the ACA comes up naturally, but it’s not a shield or a scapegoat that’s going to resonate with your employees or alleviate your pain-points in any meaningful way.   2) Get in your employees’ faces—they want you to! Prior to the open discussion at the IABC event, we polled the audience on a number of questions. One of the most telling poll questions asked the audience to rank six communications channels in order of preference when it comes to receiving benefits communications. The results were even across the board—with each of the six options pulling in an average of 16 -18%. This simply underscores what we already know about the demand to communicate via as many distribution channels as possible. In our poll, no single communication outlet drowned out another – there was hardly a 2% difference among them. However, there is a right time and place behind every touchpoint. Elizabeth Byerly, of Towers Watson, went on to elaborate that last year employees responded overwhelmingly in favor of in-person meetings when faced with complex changes in their benefits plans. After employees have had a chance to voice their specific questions and...

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Join Lab Monkey Communications and IABC Atlanta for a Special Q&A About Employee Benefits Communications

Posted on Jun 12, 2014 | 0 comments

If you’re like us, you’re currently in the throes of planning out that dreadfully busy open enrollment communications season. You know the one – when you work from sunrise and sometimes BEYOND sunset. Sorry to remind you, but it’s coming… If you’re already feeling overwhelmed, worried, and like you just don’t even know how you’re going to muddle through another open enrollment communications season then you need to be a part of this special Q&A session on June 24th. Lab Monkey is excited to be sending our CEO & Founder, Jack Kinley, to moderate a discussion focused on the benefits communications challenges brought about by the nebulous and ever-changing regulations coming out of the Affordable Care Act. Jack will be joined by Elizabeth Byerly of Towers Watson and Kerry Parker of Kaiser Permanente to share solutions and strategies that have served us as we’ve navigated these communication challenges. Be sure to RSVP and join us on June 24th at Maggiano’s Buckhead (you can do so by clicking here). And finally, go ahead and get clear on one pressing question or challenge you most need help with as you approach another open enrollment season. Share it in the comments below, and we’ll work to weave it into our discussion at the event. We look forward to hearing from (and seeing) you soon! Share...

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