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Enrollment Energizer: Boost Your Benefits Communication Today


If you only have one hour to spare in preparing for annual enrollment, view this webinar!

In this session, you’ll gain fast and easy strategies you can incorporate immediately to:

  • Give the quality of your enrollment communication a boost
  • Raise employee engagement and help workers make better benefits choices.

View just the first 15 minutes to get our quick-hit tips, or spend the whole hour to hear the rich dialogue that follows during the Q&A session addressing unique questions and workforce concerns.

This webinar was previously recorded. View the full transcript below.


Enrollment Energizer: Boost Your Benefits Communication Today

Webinar Transcript:

Jen: Hello everybody, thank you so much for joining us today. This is Enrollment Energizer: Boost Your Benefits Communication Today. I'm Jennifer Benz, and I'm thrilled to spend the next hour with you. We are going to be talking a little bit about what's going on in benefits in healthcare right now. Why your efforts matter more than ever. Then, I'm going to share some last-minute tips that you can use now even right in the middle of annual enrollment as well some ways to continue the momentum with your communication following enrollment. The majority of our session today is going to be dedicated to Q&A. We've gotten some great questions in ahead of time from participants, and we'll go through those. Anyone who is listening today, you can type in your questions in the question panel. You will be able to download the slides after the event as well as the recording. Sit back, grab a cup of coffee or tea, enjoy the content, and let's dive right in.

So, let me start with talking a little bit why your efforts matter so much right now during annual enrollment. I want to share some survey data from some work that we did with Quantum Workplace, the company that does the engagement surveys that are behind the best places to work surveys across the country. We work with Quantum to ask several thousand employees about their health benefits. Then, we connected that data to the employee engagement data that Quantum already has. We learned some really interesting insights that really indicate, and I hope give you guys a boost in morale, and know that all of the work you're putting into annual enrollment right now is really worth it. Healthcare benefits create lasting ties.

We've known this for a long time, healthcare is a huge part of the employee value proposition. The Affordable Care Act, and people being able to buy their own healthcare coverage on the open market, hasn't really changed that much. In our survey, 70% of respondents said that they value their health benefits. 89% said that their health benefits play a part in staying at their current employer, and about half of folks, 48%, say benefits play a major part in staying at their current employer—a huge connection to that job satisfaction and loyalty. What I think is the most interesting stat on this slide is that among those folks who say their benefits are an overriding factor in keeping them at their company, 82% give their benefits package high marks. People are satisfied. They feel a sense of connection to their employer because of their healthcare coverage, and they by and large think that that coverage is good quality and meeting their needs.

We also asked about whether people were interested in looking at the open market. This is of course the big shift that the Affordable Care Act brought in. Folks can now shop for coverage, and you can get coverage outside of your employer, but when it comes to health benefits only 5% of folks we surveyed think that they can get a better deal on the open market. So, clearly, an opportunity to continue to reinforce that value. People are committed to getting their insurance through their employer. In all of your efforts to help them, understanding that value and so forth during annual enrollment will really pay off.

What's interesting as well is 90% said they would be less satisfied if their company dropped health insurance, and 73% said they would not work with a company that had no health plan. Again, just more data that reinforces that close connection that employees feel with their health benefits. So, all of this means that your programs are incredibly valuable in employees’ eyes. Annual enrollment is a big, big opportunity to promote that value even when things are changing. I think this is a big mistake that a lot of employers make—when things are changing we tend to speak less about the value of the plans. We talk more about the changes, or we just don't communicate enough because of that uncertainty.

Our survey data showed very interesting insights around what has gone wrong, or some of the missed opportunities around community with the Affordable Care Act. When we asked folks if their health benefits changed due to ACA only about a quarter said that their benefits changed. We know that ACA represented a landmark shift in insurance, and nearly every employer had some sort of change regarding the Affordable Care Act, but only about a quarter said that their benefits changed because of that. Of those, by and large people had a negative experience, or felt that that was a negative impact on their benefits.

What is most interesting is that even though most people experienced those ACA changes negatively ... There's a huge difference between the folks that said the changes were adequately explained, and those that did not. So, about half of folks in our survey said that the changes were adequately explained. Most interesting, of the 15% of folks that say the changes were not adequately explained, these employees are 10 times more likely to be hostile towards their employer. Those employees are the ones on the far end of the engagement scale. They're so disengaged at their job that they're hostile, and that connection because good communication and employee engagement has been shown time and time again. This survey really speaks to that point of, with healthcare changes in particular, when that is not well explained it can create a negative environment. The opposite of that of course is that when changes are explained well, it creates trust, it builds loyalty, it builds confidence. There's almost a halo effect of trust, and goodwill when benefits communication is done well. Even when things are changing, and even when those changes are negative.

What does this all mean? Of course, annual enrollment is the time to promote the value of your plans. Reinforce to employees how much you invest, how much money is at stake, how much this is—the financial security, and protection for them, and their families. Even if you're not making a lot of changes make annual enrollment an event. Make a big deal about it. Do not let annual enrollment slip by under the radar as just a check the box activity. This is the time to really shine a light on the programs that you're promoting, and really help employees understand the bigger picture of why you offer these benefits, and what they mean to them and their families. Finally, of course, give the context for changes. When things are changing employees are insecure, they don't know what to expect, and more context, more framing can help that a better experience for them. I'll talk a little bit more about how you can do that in our next section.

With that context, and some of the data points of the employee mindset right now, how do you create more value. In particular, how do you create more value with your communications right now. I'm sure that you all are in the middle of your annual enrollment campaigns. Likely you've already completed a lot of communication materials. I'm hoping these tips will give you a little bit of an extra boost, or some ideas that you can execute right away.

I'm going to talk about three things. How to focus on health literacy. We know there are huge gaps in health literacy in the country. Also, we're going to talk about ways to reinforce the bigger story. Get to that bigger context, that bigger value proposition of benefits. Then some ways that you can let your data, and really what employees are doing now, show you some more opportunities to give that communication an extra little push.

Let's talk about health literacy to start. Most Americans don't understand healthcare basics. If we gave them a class on healthcare 101, they would fail miserably. So, annual enrollment is really a time to educate about changes in our healthcare system overall, and get to some of those fundamentals of how plans work, what insurance means, and the nuts and bolts of how these programs fit together. The opportunity here is really to focus on the personal reasons to be better engaged in the healthcare system. As an individual I want to be better engaged in my health because I'm going to get better quality of care, and I'm going to become healthier. I'm probably not going to be super engaged or super excited about being better engaged in the healthcare system to save my employer money. That's just the reality of it. So, we need to be focusing on that better quality, better health, and ease for that individual employee.

Keep in mind that people feel very, very ill equipped to make health and financial decisions. We love looking at Twitter every year to see the dialogue about annual enrollment, and what people are talking about. These just capture some of the sentiments. Open enrollment completed. I'm never entirely confident in my choices. Most days I feel comfortably intelligent. The day I have to read through my open enrollment healthcare literature is not one of those days. Then one of my favorites, now I got to go figure out open enrollment choices. Einstein would give up on this. There's a tremendous sentiment of overwhelming, and just confusion from the average employee. I'm guessing that as benefits experts you all are getting questions from friends and family, too, to help them sort through their annual enrollment choices. I have friends emailing me their enrollment guides all the time saying, "Help me understand. Help me figure out what plan to enroll in." It's often easy to blame the employee, or say, "Well people just don't spend enough time. They're not taking enough time to understand their choices. They're not spending enough time to really dig in. They're not paying attention," and while that might be the case to some degree we have to recognize that the healthcare system is so complex.

I love this quote from EBRI. I think it sums things up so well. "There is strong evidence that workers simply lack the ability to successfully navigate the complex and technical nature of healthcare." Just lack the ability, and that is across all income levels, across all education levels. This is confusing and overwhelming stuff. So, annual enrollment is a time to get to some of that baseline education and confidence with the healthcare system.

One way to do that is to really get into some of the nuts and bolts basics. Educate your employees about exactly how the plans work. Some of those key healthcare terms. One of the free resources that's available on our website is our 8 Health Insurance Terms Every American Needs to Know. This is a PDF download that just breaks down the common terms like deductible, co-pay, co-insurance, and so forth. These are things that, as benefits pros, we take for granted. We know this inside and out, but the average person can't tell you the difference between a co-pay and a co-insurance, and they're needing to make good decisions about their healthcare options with that understanding in mind. If you haven't already gotten that type of nuts and bolts education into your annual enrollment campaign, grab that PDF, and see if there's an opportunity to highlight some more. Maybe you even do a short little webinar on healthcare 101, and get another resource or two out to employees that are going to help them feel more confident, help them feel like they really understand the plans.

Another way to look at that is to tackle this idea of quality of care, and having really good patient doctor relationships. A great resource on that topic is the Choosing Wisely Toolkit. If you're not familiar with choosing wisely, I encourage you to go check it out. It's an initiative that really came up from the medical community. All of the specialty medical organizations got together and identified the top areas of over treatment, and missed treatment in their specialty. There are dozens of recommendations for the medical community.

Consumer Reports has translated that into materials that are more accessible for the average person. We were lucky to work with Pacific Business Group on Health, and the National Business Coalition on Health to turn that into an employer toolkit. This is another free resource that you can go snag right now. It has great tip sheets that are branded Consumer Report so you can leverage that trust and confidence in the Consumer Reports brand. You can incorporate them into your annual enrollment campaign right now. This is also a great topic for year-round communication, and year-round education. If it's something you want to tackle during annual enrollment, I encourage you to start that conversation during enrollment, and then continue it after enrollment ends, and when the plan year begins. All of the opportunities there are to really help employees understand, and build their own confidence in the healthcare system, and their own relationships with their doctors.

The next opportunity right now is to tell a story about your benefits and about their value. This is something that you can do as a little add-on, or you can amplify in the campaign you've already created for annual enrollment. Play to that peer-to-peer influence. Use testimonials and scenarios; examples like “people like me,” or “employees like you often choose these types of plans.” Those are great ways to help break down information and get it in a more digestible form, and a format that is more familiar. Everything in consumer marketing is about how these recommendations are personalized for you. People like you also bought this… everyone who was looking at this pair of shoes also bought this pair of shoes. All of that is in our day-to-day experience with consumer marketing and consumer purchases. There's a lot of ways to pull that into the benefits communication experience. Look for ways to use some stories. Talk about what employees have chosen, or what a typical employee would choose. Also, look at some opportunities to engage champions and leaders to talk about benefits. We'll talk a bit more about that, and there was a great question that came through on that topic that I'll dig into at the end.

Another part of telling a story is to really make healthcare a narrative. So, employees are used to benefits changing year over year, and they're certainly used to that cost message. Costs are going up, the company's going to adsorb this, your paycheck increases are going to go up like this. But there's a longer term story to tell. There's a bigger picture story to tell about how our entire healthcare system is changing, and why benefits are changing to keep up with that. Also, why getting the best care and managing costs is going to require effort on the part of that individual employee. It doesn't just require effort next year. It's going to require their effort now, and forever more. It's no longer going to be an option to be a passive user of the healthcare system. So, telling that story, and giving that bigger context for what's changing, and why you're putting in new programs that are going to support healthcare behaviors ... That are going to give folks more resources ... There's a really interesting, and I think, very engaging narrative to tell there.

But it's tempting to just say, "Hey, we're making changes because of Obamacare. We have to make these changes." That may be true in some ways, but it's not a motivator for that bigger goal of getting employees and their families engaged in the healthcare system. Be cautious about just pointing the finger at regulations and required changes rather than telling this bigger story about all of the ways the healthcare system is evolving. Be very, very cautious about company centric messages when it comes to healthcare changes. What we want to do is speak to the continued value of healthcare for the individual employee, and for their family, and all of the ways that that protects them, all of the ways that it cares for their health today ... cares for their health in the future. It's so easy to get into the company centric message of, "We're a self-insured employer, and if we don't make changes we can't afford this as a business." Again, that may be true, and it is for many, many companies, but that is not enough to get people engaged in this. The bigger opportunity here is to help people understand the context for what is changing at your company, and then how they themselves can be part of getting the best care ... managing to the best outcome for themselves.The last tip I'll share now is right now you can dig into the data for your employees. If you haven't done this already, I'll share with you a few options for digging in, and slicing and dicing that healthcare data so that you can get to more relevant and targeted communications, even at the last minute.

We know that one size does not fit all for benefits. Likely, you have employees who are in their 20's, and who are in their late 60's, maybe their 70's, maybe older than that. Yet, we communicate to this huge spectrum of employee in the same way, and we give them all the same messages. Look for opportunities to make your communication more relevant, and more focused. There are so many ways to target specific audiences, and this is a way to give your annual enrollment communications a little extra boost.

This topic of targeted and segmenting communications, we can spend hours talking about. We do have a full webinar just on the topic of targeted and segmenting communications. If this is a topic that's of interest to you, I encourage you to go check that out. It's part of our Master Class Series, and we really go into all of the nuance, and all of the different ways that you can target your benefits communication. Right now, I'll just share with you a few simple ways that you can do that during annual enrollment.

During annual enrollment we want to look at, how do we make plan changes simple and easy to understand? The questions to ask yourself is, "What is the impact on different segments of employees? Do we want to look at a medical plan change based on plan type?" Which plan people are currently enrolled in, or maybe their family scenario, or their income level. How do you create some personas, or employee profiles to understand that impact more from the employee perspective? Doing that extra legwork is going to go a long way to helping you create messages that will really click, and really resonate.

Then, I think the question that we don't ask enough is, "Who can benefit the most from these new programs? Which employees are going to be most interested in this new benefit, and why?" If you know the answer to that question, then don't be shy about telling them. You can say, "This benefit is going to be most interesting for folks who have family coverage, and are looking for this type of information." Or, "This benefit is going to be most appealing to folks that are looking for ways to maximize their retirement savings, or maximize their future savings." We don't say that enough in benefits. Really breaking things down into how different programs fit the needs of different employees, there's so many opportunities.

Now, one topic that I'm guessing almost everyone on the call is thinking about today, is how you get more people into your high deductible plan with HSA. Or, if you've already gotten a ton of people into that plan, how you get them to use it more. This is a really interesting area for targeted and segmented communications. You can look at the salary levels, and the 401K contributions of your employees, and make some assumptions about whether or not they're more likely to be spenders, or savers with their HSA. HSA spenders are those that use the account every year, to pay for their medical expenses. In many cases, because they can't afford to otherwise. But, in some cases because they just don't know about the savings value of that plan long term.

Whereas savers, are the folks that are thinking of their HSA as a longer term savings vehicle, as that healthcare retirement nest egg. They are more likely to be paying all their medical expenses out of pocket, and just socking away money in the HSA. Look at your data. What does the 401K data tell you about the likelihood that your employees are going to be into one of those categories? Then also, look at things like how many people are missing catch up contributions in their HSA, as well as their 401K. What are the ways to make this more relevant, and more meaningful? When you dig into some of those areas, you can really get to better insights. Right now during annual enrollment, you might be able to send a targeted email to those folks, or a postcard, or do a webinar that's going to be specifically aiming at those folks. Lots of different ways to get that message in a more relevant format.

The high deductible plan in HSA topic is another one that we have a full Master Class Session on. If that's something that you're struggling with, or that you want to make sure you're covering all the bases on, check that out as well, also available on demand on our resources page.

Very quickly, let me talk about how you continue the momentum after annual enrollment. We have done surveys over the last few years of large employers, really a broad spectrum of employers around how they're doing benefits communication. Our latest survey in 2014, we talked to 333 HR and benefits pros from organizations of all sizes, about what they're doing with their benefits communication. What we saw is that very universally, employers want to engage employees, and their families in their benefits year-round. This is a top challenge for companies. But, there's a big disconnect in what they're doing, or what that goal is, and then what they're actually doing.

We see that very few companies use best practices. Only 18% communicate year-round, only a quarter target families, and only 11% segment their communication based on benefit behavior or demographics. Then, only about a third are using online channels well. One of the pieces of data that we see, just not enough communications budget to really make a dent in many of these cases.

I want to talk about year-round communication, because this is the biggest opportunity for you to continue your momentum after annual enrollment. What we saw in our survey from 2012 to 2014 was that the number of employers who were communicating year-round actually dropped fairly significantly. My hypothesis on that is because everyone has been so caught up with healthcare reform changes, their communication has actually retracted because of the uncertainty. But, here's why year-round communication matters. In our survey, 93% of companies that communicate year-round met all, or most, of their goals. And, companies communicating year-round are less likely to be challenged by overall compliance and navigating healthcare reform. So, big opportunities from a business standpoint. And when you communicate year-round, you just give employees and their families so many more resources. So many more reasons to engage, reasons to value your benefits, and reasons to really take advantage of the programs that are offered.

Jen:                  There are unlimited topics to communicate about year-round. I want to give you some ideas of the best topics to tackle after enrollment, and in the new year. These will really build on the themes that we've talked about so far, and likely what you're trying to do with your benefits strategy.

Health literacy is a huge topic that can be communicated about year-round, as well as using your health plan. This also includes life events education, as well as new hire education and orientation. Two big opportunities to put more resources into that year-round communication. Then, really just getting the most from all of your benefits. Look to those often missed benefits. What are people not taking advantage of? What don't they know about in your organization? If you sat down with an individual employee, what would you tell them? "Hey, you're probably not using this, this, and this." Those are the types of topics that are perfect for year-round communication, and perfect for your team to keep the momentum you start from annual enrollment and continue that into the first part of next year.

Then, of course, ask your employees. What do they need, what topics are going to be of interest to them, and how can you help them feel more successful and more supported by your benefits?

Great, well that's some tips for getting more out of your annual enrollment right now. I want to move into the Q and A. We have a bunch of great questions that were submitted in advance. I want to go through those. Then, any other questions that come to mind as we're talking, please enter those in the questions module and we'll get to those, as many of them as we can at the end of the session. Again, the slides, as well as the recording are going to be available after the session, so no worries about that. We'll dig right into the Q and A.

The first question is one I hear a lot. "How do we get people to pay attention?" I wish I had one simple answer to this. There's no magic formula for getting employees to pay attention. But, what you do need to do, and what all companies can do is, really make communications relevant and meaningful to employees. When you focus on employees and their needs, they are going to engage with you more because you're giving them something of value.

Also, use your brand. So many employers don't leverage the biggest asset they have as a company when it comes to internal communication. That is the brand. The trust, and confidence, and familiarity of your company brand. The same brand that is used externally to communicate to the market can be used internally to educate employees and their family members regarding benefits. It's a big, big opportunity for companies to amplify their brand, and use that as a way to grab attention and to create more trust.

Then, the other thing that is universal is that you have to say the same thing over, and over, and over again. A lot of our clients get frustrated that we have to say the same message so many times to get traction, but that's just the reality. Employees are distracted, they're not paying attention to benefits as their top priority every day and every night, so you've got to reinforce that message, and really repeat what you want them to do.

Give it to them in many different channels and many different ways to engage. That's why when we do campaigns, we use so many different channels. We'll use beautiful websites, videos, webinars, tip sheets, print materials that go to homes, and posters that are in the workplace. Every channel that you can think of. Email, text, everything that is at your fingertips, use. I promise, as you start to get more momentum with communication and really focus on making things relevant and meaningful, you will get people to pay attention, and they will be more engaged.

The next question is another good one, "Should C-Suite leaders be part of annual enrollment messages?" The answer here is really, it depends. If you are rolling out a big, big change, that might be a reason to have your C-Suite leaders as part of that communication, to give it context in the business, to reinforce that the employee needs are being cared for. Lots of ways that leaders can help with that message, and help with that momentum.

We've also used C-Suite leaders when we're rolling out new tools, when we just want employees to really reengage with benefits, and to understand their full value. If a program would benefit significantly from that visible leadership support, that might be a time to use them for annual enrollment messages. That would be like a new wellness program, or a wellness challenge, that you really want that leadership support. That can be a really good reason to get those top leaders involved.

What I will say is that you do not want your top leaders communicating on, or educating on the nitty gritty about your benefits. Leave that to your benefits team, or your carrier partners who really are the experts, and let your C-Suite leaders be that big picture message of the connection to the business, the commitment to people, and why benefits are such a big part of that organizations investment in employees.

The next question is another great one, "What's the best channel to communicate big changes?" This is another example where, another question where there's no one answer to this. It really depends on each organization. My best advice is to make sure that you are using many different channels to communicate a big change. Some employees are going to want just the high level, what does this mean to me, and what do I need to do? Other employees are going to want all of the details, and they're going to want to pour through plan design information, and really understand all of the behind the scenes details.

Some are going to really respond well, and understand something if they read it in print. Others are going to want to watch it on a video or listen to it on a webinar. Make sure that you're using multiple channels to communicate any big changes, and that you're giving employees a way to give you their feedback as well. That's a big part of making any change successful, is helping employees feel like it's a two way communication exchange. And, it's a good way for you to get ahead of things in terms of where people have questions or concerns that are not being addressed.

The next question, "How do we reach spouses and family members?" We know spouses and family members are a huge, huge part of the benefits decision making, and the majority of the cost of your healthcare benefits. We want to get them engaged. The best way to do this, is to make sure that they have access to benefits information at their fingertips 24/7. If you've listened to our other webinars, or downloaded our Whitepaper and others, you know that our number one best practice for benefits communication is to have a branded website that is outside of your firewall, available on the internet, and that is a delightful place to spend time, as I like to say.

You want that benefits information at employees and their family members fingertips, anytime the urge strikes them to look at something regarding your benefits. Now, those sites can be a beautiful experience on a mobile device, really user friendly, really engaging. That is absolutely the best way to reach spouses and family members. Now, of course just because you have that site, doesn't mean that they are going to always remember to go to it. You have to remind them over and over again, and we are big fan of sending simple print pieces that are very action oriented, have very clear calls to action to go visit that site, send those print pieces to the homes.

Also, invite spouses and family members to webinars, or any onset events that you do. That's a great way to get them engaged, get them more information, and in many cases, they are going to be the decision makers with benefits, so you want to absolutely make sure that they have access to all of that great information that your company is investing in.

On that topic, "What messages are most important to spouses and family members?" Now, I think the messages that are most critical for spouses and family members are very similar to what's most critical for employees. During annual enrollment, that is what's changing, what do I need to do, and what does that mean to me? And, of course, how much does it cost? That is generally the hierarchy of questions and information that employees are going to have, as well as their families are going to have during annual enrollment.

The other thing to really make sure that you're getting out to spouses and family members, is how to access resources. How to get the information they need, where to go with questions, where to go to access benefits and make changes. That is a universal, kind of year-round message that you want to make sure that you're getting to spouses and family members. But, during annual enrollment, focusing on that what's changing, what does it mean, and what do I need to do is really important.

"Is it too late to add some creativity to our campaign? We end up with the same materials over and over again, year over year." Great question here, and we love taking things up a notch with the creativity for campaigns. I think for all companies, you can fall into the trap of kind of having a formula for annual enrollment. You know it works, you know you're using all those different channels, you know that you're getting employees to pay attention, but are you really getting that extra bit of excitement, or that extra bit of engagement and interest by doing it the same way as the year before?

At this stage, what I would suggest is you look to add a few pieces that are going to make annual enrollment pop a little bit more for employees. That might be more for employees. That might be a set of infographics, maybe it's a video, maybe it's a series of webinars that are going to be short and sweet, and really conversational, and really easy to access. Maybe it's some humor, where you're going to try to use a bit of jokes or a bit of laughter to attract attention and get people to pay attention.

It's never too late to add some creativity. Get with your team, brainstorm. If you're using internal or external resources, see what additional materials you can add to spice things up. Lots of opportunities always to just elevate the message and give people some different ways to think about things. Maybe you want to do a funny quiz, or a contest. There’s lots of ways to just get things energized a bit more for employees, and also keep them a little bit more entertaining for your team.

I think, more than anything, it's easy to burn out when you're the one looking at all the communication materials year in and year out, and they all start to feel similar. Do something that's going to be exciting for your team as well. Maybe it's an onsite event. Maybe you are plastering the walls of headquarters with benefits messages, or putting up some big large format installations. So many different things that you can do.

The next question, how do we move more people to the CDHP? This is a great one, and another topic that we can spend all day talking about, and a topic that is another one of our master classes, as I mentioned before. We do have a full webinar on making consumer directed plans a success.

One of the big pieces of making the consumer directed plan successful is simplicity of plan design. Now, given that it's September 30th, I hope you all have locked down your plan design and already made it simple and easy to compare from plan to plan. That is sometimes a piece that will make or break participation, so simplicity of plan design is a big component.

Things that you can influence right now, even if your plan design is locked in, one thing is to promote that plan. If you have a valuable CDHP plan design, if you know that all of your employees are going to save money in that plan, say it. Say it to your employees, "We know this plan is a better deal for you," or, "We have designed this to be the best deal. Here's how it works. Here's all of the advantages of it. We know that you'll save money in this plan."

Many times, companies have intentionally designed the CDHP to be the best deal. I've seen plan designs where, by a long shot, no matter what your family situation is, no matter what your health care situation is, you will save money in the CDHP, but the companies are still shy about saying that. If that's the case, promote it. Be really bold about what makes that plan valuable. If you've put more benefits or more special coverages in that plan ... Sometimes companies will have additional coverage for fertility benefits, or maybe holistic medicine, in that plan, then promote that too. Everything that's about that plan, really promote it.

This is a good area to look at targeting messages. If you have a good number of folks that are in your 401(k) plan that are maxing out their annual contributions, talk to them about why the HSA is another tax advantage retirement savings tool. If you have a large group of highly compensated employees that are still hanging on to that PPO, because they just don't care about the paycheck contributions, talk to them about why the HSA is a good deal for them. Really look at the data. Who is in the different plans? What are the demographics? What do their other plan elections look like? Then, you can tailor and target messages around them.

One of our best case studies on this, you can find on our website, is Adobe. They were able to move 62% of their population into the HSA plan the first year it was offered through a combination of great plan design and over the top bold communications. There definitely is a formula to success with these plans, but it does take being bold and opinionated, and really helping employees see the value for them. Making this change is not something that the average employee is sitting around thinking about. For a lot of employees, and I've heard this in focus groups, they say, "Hey, I'm just going to hang on to the PPO as long as I can, because I know it's going away eventually." It's like there's some sort of nostalgia connected to that PPO, and so you have to really make sure you're communications break through that and help them understand why that is such a better deal for them.

How do we do focus groups without getting backlash? Great question, here. A lot of companies are very hesitant to do focus groups, because of this idea that, if we ask employees what they want and need, but we can't deliver to them exactly what they ask for, we're going to somehow get backlash because of that, or they're going to be disappointed. We just have not seen that to be the case. When you go and do focus groups, employees are, by and large, appreciative that you are asking them for their opinion and that you're trying to get in better touch with them about their needs and what they want. You can set the context at the beginning of that focus group of, "We want your opinion. We don't know what we're going to be able to change, but we'll take it all into account." Then, once you've done the focus groups, tell the employees back, and tell all the employees, that you've gathered all this rich data, that you appreciate all the employees have participated, that you're going to keep that in mind, and encourage them to continue to submit feedback and ideas.

Creating that dialogue with employees is always advantageous. It can help point out areas of opportunity that you may not have known about at all in areas where your team may even have a misperception about how employees feel about something. I always encourage doing focus groups or employee surveys. You can always put through a little bit of context around them to make sure the people are not going to be disappointed, and that your team doesn't have to have that fear of any sort of employee backlash.

Great. Our last pre-submitted question, should we mention the new 1095 tax form in our enrollment materials? This is a great question and something that a piece of Affordable Care Act that I think is sneaking up on many companies is this 1095 reporting. In January, pretty much all Americans are going to get a new tax form that talks about the value of their health coverage, and they're going to have to do something with that form. It is going to be very, very, confusing.

As far as the annual enrollment message, I think, if anything, this is a footnote in annual enrollment communications. It's maybe a sidebar or a little coming soon, but most people are not going to be paying attention to it during annual enrollment, because the form doesn't come until January. In January, this is going to be a topic to be communicating very proactively about.

It is confusing, so we are actually very excited to give you all sneak peek of this. We are creating a toolkit to help you communicate this 1095 form very easily and very quickly without any pain on the part of your team, and really to avoid that employee confusion. After this webinar, you're going to get an email with a link to put your name on a list, if you're interested in the toolkit, as well as for a discount code on the toolkit. We are working to make this very, very, affordable for employers of all sizes.

We're going to have a basic toolkit that is a planning document, the key messages, all the content you need to educate employees, as well as HR. That's going to be just a set of documents that your team can use and hit the ground running with. We're going to have a second option that includes all of those materials as well as a short video that you can use for employees and you can push out on your website, or through any channels that you have right now. The third option that I'm really, really, excited about is we're going to be able to package all of that up into a very simple and very sexy mobile website that is really designed for employees to look at on their phones, to make a quick glance through, or to pull up when they get that form in the mail. That's a piece that we'll be able to customize for your organization at a very, very, low cost.

Little sneak peek on this. It's just going live on our website today. We'll send out more information via email, but I hope that this will be a huge help to you all, and help you really get through that change without any headache at all.

Great. It looks like we've a had a couple questions come in. If there are any other questions, you can submit them through the questions panel, and we'll get to those. Just want to remind everyone that the slides will definitely be available after the event. You'll be able to download everything, as well as you'll be able to listen to the recording of the session.

Another question, what is the best way to structure email and make email most effective? A great question. If you are using email communication for your annual enrollment messages, what I would recommend is that you try to keep the emails short and sweet, and action oriented, and push people to other resources for more detail. Don't try to communicate every single change in that email. Keep the subject line short and sweet, and focused. What we have seen in testing is that, when you send out an email from an actual person, rather than from a benefits email box, you will get a higher open rate, and people will read it more. Definitely, using email is a great way to get messages out, but keeping it more short and sweet, and linking out for more detail, is a way to get people to read it and better engage with that email.

Keep in mind, when you are writing your emails, that over 50% of emails are read on a mobile device. Think about, when you're looking at emails on your mobile phone, do you want to go through something that is long, and lengthy, and requires a lot of attention? Would you want to quick glance with what you need to do, so that you can flag something for later, and then come back to it when you have a little bit more time? Really think about how your employees are going to use that email, when you get there, and you'll be in a better spot.

The next question that came in is, you've mentioned webinars several times, how do we make those successful, and what's the best length and time for that? We are a big fan of webinars. Just like you all are listening to this webinar right now, it's a convenient way to get information, to have the feel of being in person, but not to have to leave your desk, or not have to leave your home.

What we have seen be really successful with webinars are shorter formats that are more focused. Getting the employees and their family members to carve out an hour to listen to a really detailed webinar about all the ins and outs of your benefits, might not be realistic. What if you offered a series of webinars that break things down into more targeted and focused topics? That's a really, really, powerful way to get folks to engage, communicate a lot of information, and then, also, create resources that can be posted on your website for future viewing. Just like the webinar today is being recorded, you'll be able to watch it after the fact, you can do that with your employee webinars, where you're essentially creating a short video that employees and their families, as well as new hires, can reference after the fact.

What we suggest is putting some energy into your slides, so they're really easy to look at, well formatted, and then making sure that you have a really energetic presenter. It doesn't necessarily have to be someone from the benefits team. Think about someone who's really good on the phone, going to have a lot of energy, and be able to really keep people's attention for the duration of that webinar. Another plug for our master class series. We have another session on using online communication channels to their best. We talk about webinars and some of the tips for making them successful in that session as well.

Great. Well, we had so many great questions submitted in advance, appreciate the ones that came in during the recording as well. Just want to wrap up. Thank you so much for joining today. I hope that you have some additional tips and some additional resources to use for your annual enrollment communications this year. Also, a little bit more context to know that all of the effort your team is putting in is well worth it. Employees appreciate and value their benefits, and this is a great time of year for your team to really get the recognition for the hard work that you do all year long.

To sign up for the early bid pricing on our toolkit, you can go to our website,, or benz1095tookit, that is. You can download our research, our tip sheets, our master class series, and so forth, on our resources page. If you have any questions or feedback, please send us an email at, and we will get back to you right away. Thank you again, everyone, for joining us. It's always a delight to spend some time with you. We look forward to talk more soon. Thanks so much.