18th January 2017

Changes to health care plan design can be uncomfortable. There’s no magic bullet for you to communicate changes perfectly and getting people to buy into the new changes can seem like an impossible task. However, you can avoid this struggle by using these 10 tips to drive your communications strategy.

1. Remember that there’s no one perfect way to communicate change.
Make sure you have all the facts and information about the new plan before you begin to assess the most suitable communication approaches for your organization and group.

2. Ask yourself what exactly is changing and why.
Health care plan communication can be loaded with industry jargon. But, you have to make a connection. For example, what does it mean when you say your organization is changing its health plan based on newly-changed legislation? Go to the root of what you’re trying to achieve from an organizational behavior perspective, and give the jargon life.

3. Know what you want to achieve through the change initiative and the communication.
What is the primary goal? Adoption of the new health plan by the majority of employees? Retaining employees when replacing an existing plan? What’s your immediate call to action? What systemic or operational changes are underway that provide the framework for the desired results and behaviors? How are you going to drive action?

4. Include your communication experts at the very beginning of discussions about the change.
Don’t wait until your company’s health plan has been agreed to by corporate executives before including your communication experts. Too often, qualified communicators are involved after a new plan or a major health care initiative is introduced. Ensure a smoother change by including your communication experts right from the start.

5. Share information with employees as soon as possible.
There’s a real problem in large companies today. Communication to investors or owners is a top priority. But employees sometimes hear about a major benefit change, update or reorganization through the rumor mill. Communicating early and often is crucial to avoiding uncertainty and increasing understanding.

6. Share the right amount of information with your employees.
While communicating with your employees is essential, you need to avoid communication overload. Make sure to focus on the most significant information and highlight the points most relevant to your employees. While some employees know a lot about their health plan and want every detail, some only want to know about the changes that will affect them. Know how to communicate along this spectrum.

7. Effective communication takes time.
Many leaders and managers underestimate the length of time required to fully communicate a major (or minor) change in benefits. It’s often better to over communicate then under communicate. Don’t be afraid to be repetitive, and seek out feedback from your employees along the way to make sure your message landed as you intended.

8. Remember to use a variety of communication methods.
Some organizations make an enormous mistake in using only one or two different communication paths, such as email, the company’s intranet site or a leader presentation. Creating innovative mobile and web-based engagement with employees and their spouses is also key.

9. Don’t confuse process with communication.
While employee benefit meetings and their respective processes can be communication vehicles, they aren’t always adequate to meet all of your organization’s benefit change communication needs.

10. Give people multiple opportunities to share concerns, ask questions, and offer ideas.
The more your employees are involved in the change process, the fewer will become unhappy or walk out of the door.

Avoid the struggle in 2017
Making changes to the design of a health care plan is never easy and helping your employees understand the changes is even harder. However, if you know what you want to achieve and use the tips above, your company can have a much smoother change in 2017.

For more information about how you and your company can use effective and innovative communication for benefits, please contact Korey Erb [email protected] or 612-443-4490.

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