Mobile Apps Can Help Companies Save Money, Boost Productivity & Increase Employee Engagement

Posted on May 7, 2015 | 0 comments

  How many times have you tried to quickly find an in-network doctor, only to discover you had to first log on to your employee portal to access your benefits information? When you need your benefits information fast, but you are miles away from your office or can’t remember your log in to the benefits portal, you feel powerless and frustrated. The same frustration arises for your employees every time they hit a roadblock when they need to access their benefit plan information for themselves or their family members. Requiring your employees to rely solely on outdated, cumbersome systems for their benefits information not only chips away at productivity and employee morale, it costs your organization money. Employees don’t want to waste their time—or yours—searching for the details of their benefits coverage when a decision needs to be made in the moment. However, the reality is that employees are often forced to make hasty decisions on unexpected medical appointments, prescription decisions, or urgent care. When access to benefits information is limited to antiquated methods, such as workplace portals, home computers, or print brochures, employees feel disenfranchised and helpless navigating the complexities of leveraging their benefits effectively. The result is often delaying treatment or making costly decisions, such as using out-of-network providers or accepting uncovered services. What your employees really want is an easy-to-use system that they can access anytime, anywhere. Most people already use smart phone technology to access information. Taking advantage of the convenience and versatility of mobile communications is the smartest choice for companies who want to reach their employees beyond the firewall. That’s why we created Mobile Benefits Connection™. This easy-to-use, low-cost solution empowers your employees to make smarter in-the-moment decisions any time they need to use their company benefits. Mobile Benefits Connection is a web-based app designed to function as a simple portal that allows employees instant access to all the important phone numbers, addresses, and websites associated with their benefits providers. CLICK HERE to see Mobile Benefits Connection in action, and to learn more about how this simple solution is helping employees make smarter benefits decisions year-round that save your company money, boost productivity, and foster deeper engagement.   Share...

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UPS Did (and You Can Too)! How to Dump Your Spouses on Someone Else…

Posted on Aug 21, 2013 | 0 comments

I was pumping gas and reading the news on my phone this morning when I almost dropped my phone – “UPS Drops 15,000 Spouses from Insurance.” My mind was reeling at the news. The first article I read sensationally left out the word “spouses” to make it even more salacious—as if 15,000 employees were losing individual benefits. However, as I read through various other news sources, the picture got a LOT clearer. So let’s back up and regroup now that the initial fit of hysteria is settling. Yes. UPS IS planning to eliminate coverage for 15,000 spouses. But only those spouses who are eligible for coverage through their own employers. No one is getting left completely in the lurches or sent packing without healthcare coverage! That’s just media hype and sensationalist journalism. Many large employers already tack on an increase in fees for employees whose spouses are covered by their plan instead of one provided by their spouse’s own employer. UPS has taken a difficult stance to help cover increasing costs for providing healthcare to their employees. With a significant part-time workforce the company will be faced with an increase in costs to either provide coverage to those employees or pay the fees for failing to do so—all new provisions that go into effect with the ACA in 2014. It’s a controversial decision, but UPS is not alone in this trend. This year 4% of large employers surveyed by consultants Towers Watson excluded spouses if they had similar coverage where they work. Another 8% planned such a change for 2014, according to the survey. (source USA Today) It’s never easy to tell your employees that benefits costs are rising, or worse yet—that benefits are going away. Proper timing, planning, and communications are key to helping employees weather these storms. Reportedly, a memo was issued to the 15,000 employees who will be impacted by this decision. We don’t know what other forms of communication were distributed, but here’s what we would advise: Create a comprehensive communications plan to help guide employees and their spouses through this transition. Know HOW you’re going to deliver those details—email, meetings, online, print, or a combination of all of these. Issue an Employee Memo to those affected by the change (good move UPS). Explain why the company is making this decision. Don’t JUST blame external factors like the ACA. Map out a clear support strategy that employees can follow. When will they get more details? How? Where?  Issue a Managers Memo with best practices, talking points, and a schedule of upcoming opportunities for managers and employees to learn more about the pending changes. Set up an Employee Hotline/Inbox dedicated exclusively to this topic. 15,000 people are bound to have tons of questions. The sooner you answer them, the sooner they can get back to work. Schedule employee town halls/webinars – sharing information about the pending changes in a group forum allows employees an opportunity to voice their concerns directly to managers. It also allows them a chance to see who else is affected by these changes and lean on one another for additional support. Mail a postcard home – yes, it’s a little odd to still receive snail mail from your employer – but that’s precisely why it still works. And since spouses bear the brunt of this bad news, we have to advise that at least ONE mail piece be sent directly to the homes of your employees with a link to online resources or a hotline they can call about the pending changes. The cost of a communications campaign like the one above far outweighs...

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The 4 Fundamental Principles of Fabulous FAQ’s

Posted on Jun 25, 2013 | 0 comments

  Is it just us or does it seem like everyone has a few extra questions about their healthcare plans this year? We’re in the early stages of drafting open enrollment communications for our clients and we’re beginning to notice a few trends. One, in particular, is taking the lead as the number one problem for 2013. It’s the epic saga you’re trying to call a FAQ Flyer. And it’s not really doing anyone any favors. We get that you’re anxious to provide some sort of answers to employees this year. We get that a lot is changing as you onboard more employees, move towards consumer driven health plans, and focus on leading employees to become their own best healthcare advocates. There’s a lot of ground to cover. But we think you’ll get further by taking a step back, regrouping and committing to these basic communications principles as you prepare to lead your employees through some of the biggest changes our healthcare system has ever seen. Keep this year’s FAQ’s from becoming useless information graveyards by following these 4 Fundamental Principles of Fabulous FAQ’s: Divide and conquer – rather than having one FAQ document to address all things benefits related, we’ve seen better results by lumping your questions and answers together by topic. So if you have a question about your medical plan, head over to the Medical Plan FAQ’s. And if you have a question about your prescription plan? Start with the Prescription Plan FAQ’s. Naturally, there will be some overlap between documents. You wouldn’t want to ignore prescriptions under medical, but you may not need to go into as much detail there.  Re-organize as you go – this is the biggest mistake we see. It’s tempting to dump every question you get from an employee into your FAQ’s. But it’s a huge mistake. We advise that you wait until you’ve heard the same question at least three times before you weave it into your FAQ’s. As the content expands, you must be mindful of where you’re adding new questions. They may flow more logically in the middle, near a question addressing similar concerns. Do not just tack every random question onto the end of your FAQs! No one will read through every question in a desperate attempt to glean a tiny nugget of wisdom from your 32-page FAQ’s. They will bail on you and they will ultimately bail on your next communications piece – no matter how beautiful, well-written, or high-priority it may be. K.I.S.S. (Keep It Simple, Stupid) – It’s tempting to go into great detail in an effort to answer a question as fully as possible. But you need to bear in mind the purpose of a FAQ document — simple Q and A’s, that’s it. Inevitably, any question related to healthcare plans or benefits will entail a lengthy and complex answer. Whenever it’s possible, you should use links to other resources that more fully answer your employee’s question. This keeps your FAQ’s more succinct and helps employees scan the content quickly to discover the resources they need to resolve their issues and get back to work. Format it!!! – We’re not saying that you need to have photos, charts and adorable little infographics to make your FAQ’s legible. But we are saying, use that little “B” in the toolbar (you know, the one that makes things “bold”)! Increase the point size of your “question” and group your questions under logical headlines. Don’t just throw 23 questions into a word document and think someone’s going to read it. With a few simple tweaks, you can...

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You Can’t Hide from the Doughnuts!

Posted on Mar 19, 2013 | 0 comments

Whenever I travel, I find my eating habits significantly challenged. I recently discovered a reasonably acceptable on-the-go breakfast, only to discover this weekend that the “Starbucks” in my hotel didn’t serve the damned things! Grumble, grumble. So Saturday morning I stood in line staring at the muffins, cakes, and doughnuts in the pastry case and thinking, “If I eat this crap, I have to go for a run—on my vacation. And if I eat this crap, I won’t feel like running. I’m screwed.” Fortunately, they did have oatmeal. So I didn’t go off the deep-end with my eating habits. I mentioned my frustration when I sat down to eat my oatmeal with my friends. And then I steered the conversation towards my recent light reading material from the plane ride up – emerging healthcare trends resulting from the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. I have wonderful friends to indulge me in my obsessive fascination with the PPACA over coffee on a Saturday morning! At this point in their careers, most of my friends are managers or leaders of some sort in their various lines of work—so I pretended I was doing them a favor by making them consider this. One friend, let’s call her Bernice, spoke pretty candidly about her frustration with her overweight diabetic co-workers who regularly bring in doughnuts for each other, never pass up dessert at lunch, and routinely max out their sick leave sometimes before the year is even over. We all politely agreed that to some extent it’s none of our business if Rebecca in accounting orders a cookie every day at lunch. But we also agreed that we shouldn’t bear the cost of her nutrition and health decisions, especially if we’re all paying into the same collective healthcare pool. It’s a dicey situation. We believe in freedom of choice, but we also believe in personal responsibility. The question I then posed to our group is “how do you create a culture of wellness in your office? How do you stop teaching people that doughnuts=rewards? And instead teach them that walking to lunch or eating a healthy breakfast is a better behavior?” When I was part of the Michelin team at Aon Hewitt, I marveled at their commitment not just to creating wellness programs but to marketing them through some pretty creative channels. Most impressive to me was their use of vending machines to market their wellness brand. They didn’t just put a poster in the break room with a generic “eat right” message. They actually labeled the snacks INSIDE the machines with their wellness program’s logo (a healthy green apple). It was undeniable what Michelin wanted employees to choose when that next junk food craving struck. They drove the message home all the way down to the very point of decision where employees purchased snacks daily. Healthy people are made one small decision after another. That’s how habits, lifestyles, and cultures emerge. Michelin has figured this out. And they have made a significant investment in shaping their culture through communications that intercept employees at the very point where they’re most likely to go off-track with their wellness goals. What simple changes or additions to your communications plan have helped transform the health of your workplace? Tell us in the comments section below!   Share...

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Three Key Messages for HR Managers in the New Year

Posted on Jan 8, 2013 | 0 comments

  It’s officially the first full work week of the new year. The week when honoring our New Year’s Resolutions meets its first real test. For me the biggest test is not hitting the snooze button three times in a row when the clock strikes 5:45! Tack on 30 minutes to that wake-up call and it gets easier and easier to “run out of time” to squeeze in that morning workout. But change is in the air, and it’s the perfect time to capitalize on that energy to make big changes in your life and the lives of your employees. We spend so much time planning and rolling out our communications strategies each Fall during Open Enrollment that we are often spent by the time January finally rolls around. So take a deep breath, get your second wind and remind your employees of the benefits and wellness programs they signed up for two or three months ago. Focus on these three messages this January to help your employees successfully navigate the changes in the air: Provider Contact Information – nobody knows who to call or where to go to make sure their doctors are still in their network this time of year. Draft an email or post a flyer (or both) listing all of the benefits plans you’re providing this year. Be sure to include the names of the providers, their phone numbers, email addresses and web sites. Wellness Programs – everyone is trying to lose weight or stop smoking this time of year. You know how much your employees’ wellness impacts their performance and how it benefits the company’s bottom line when it comes to dollars spent on healthcare coverage. Make sure employees understand how to use these programs by posting flyers, inviting the program providers to host lunch and learn activities, and providing managers with tools and training to help boost employee participation in these programs. Pre-Tax Savings Programs – although we avoided that annoying “fiscal cliff,” Americans are facing increased Social Security Taxes which will noticeably decrease their take-home pay. Taking full advantage of pre-tax savings opportunities such as investing in retirement plans or contributing to HSAs and FSAs is a smart way to help employees counteract some of the negative impact on their paychecks. Few things fuel more workplace dissatisfaction than a dip in take-home pay. Employers who rally to help their employees counteract measures beyond their control (i.e. acts of Congress) will be better positioned to weather the storm this year. The bottom line is that consistent communications are crucial in shaping the success of your workforce. Be a proactive listener, anticipate your employees’ needs, and reach out to them with timely information on the benefits and programs intended to support them throughout the year. Share...

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Making Room for Mental Health in Your Employee Benefits Plans

Posted on Oct 9, 2012 | 0 comments

Employers know that mentally healthy workforces are more productive, miss fewer days of work, and have lower medical costs. As businesses, we value the return on our investment in our workforce’s health. Yet most employers stop short of offering comprehensive benefits that adequately address mental health issues, focusing instead on physical conditions such as hypertension, diabetes, and asthma that are often compounded by undiagnosed mental illnesses. In an article published by the Partnership for Workplace Mental Health, the following facts build a powerful case for including mental health benefits in your lineup: Less than one-third of adults with a diagnosable mental disorder receive treatment in any given year; Mental illness short-term disability claims are growing by 10% annually (accounting for 30% or more of the typical employer’s disability claims); and Individuals who are depressed but not receiving care for the condition consume two to four times the healthcare resources of other enrollees. Despite these staggering facts, many employers continue to offer mental wellness benefits as either part of a suite of optional benefits, or not at all. And few employers take the time to offer employees the education and guidance they need to take full advantage of the benefits available to them. How Can Employers Provide Better Mental Health Services for Their Workforce? Chances are that if you’re researching the impacts of mental health on your workforce’s productivity and engagement then your company is on the right track to making an improvement in its benefits programs. You may even already provide key services that your employees aren’t using to their full advantage. Here are some tips and tools to help your company reduce the costly expenses associated with untreated and undiagnosed mental illnesses in your workforce: Evaluate your current mental health benefits and services: assess exactly what services fall under your plans and understand how to use the health services that you currently provide. Compare your current offerings to other available options in the marketplace: The National Business Coalition on Health has developed a comparison tool to help you do just that. Develop strategic programs that complement your benefits plans: employers commonly offer financial incentives for participating in biometric screenings that help employees assess their physical health—but not their mental health. For tips on offering anonymous mental health screenings for employees, visit www.mentalhealthscreening.org. Screening results should alway be followed up with professional on-site counseling, educational materials specific to any results received, and explanations of how the company’s benefits program can offer support services and access to care. Market your benefits and support programs: This is where so many employers miss the mark. It’s not enough to offer even the best benefits in the industry if you’re not helping your employees understand how to use them. According to a study by ADP (Automatic Data Processing, Inc.), 60% of employees don’t understand the benefits programs offered by their employers. Currently, most employers are in the throes of communicating the changes to their new benefits plans in preparation for the new year. While enrollment education is critical in helping employees to choose the benefits that will serve them and their families in the coming year, we must also help employees to understand their benefits so that they can better use them throughout the year. Lab Monkey Design specializes in internal health and wellness communications for employees. We produce internal benefits brands, open enrollment communications, educational healthcare marketing, and a variety of customized wellness campaigns to help your employees make the most of the benefits you offer. When your employees are able understand and use the benefits you provide, your company will thrive...

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