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February 20th, 2015

How to Make Benefits Information Easier for Employees to Understand

If employers want their workers to participate in retirement and benefits programs, it is important to communicate with them in plain English. Many benefits packages and retirement plans come with complex wording, and employees may not understand all of the terms. In addition to this, English may be a second language to some employees, so terminology may seem even more confusing to them. If they do not understand the terms in such an overwhelming amount of information, they may just avoid participating. It is the responsibility of employers to educate workers at all levels about what these terms mean.

Comb through a benefits package to pinpoint words that are considered jargon. Think about what words or descriptions could be substituted to make it easier for someone who has not taken HR-related classes to understand. Next, think about the system used for communicating benefits. Use the following points to analyze the system and information.

 

Think about the Communication Approach

For some employers, communication starts and stops with handing workers thick booklets about benefits. It is likely that most workers will not even read the information until they have reasons to file claims. Since most workers do not read these booklets, they may not even know there are insurance plans that could help them in such situations.

Look for Undefined Terms that May Confuse Employees

Most managers and HR personnel know what open enrollment is. However, an employee may think this means enrollment is an option at any time. He or she may browse past the section outlining the open enrollment term, so these two words being repeated throughout the booklet may be misunderstood. Booklets should have glossaries, which define words and specific time frames associated with certain words. If the word “utilize” appears in the booklet, replace it with the more common¬†word “use.” This is much easier for anyone to understand.

Organize the Information

Use bullet points to organize lists. For example, lists of exclusions, drugs or other types of data with multiple listings are much easier to read in list format. Use headers and bold print to highlight important dates or pieces of information. It is also helpful to have a Q & A section in the back that addresses common questions.

Best Practice Tips

Instead of handing employees a thick booklet packed with various types of information, it is better to offer multiple items. For example, make a special handbook for each type of insurance plan or retirement plan. Every booklet should have its own relevant glossary, and the information should be broken up into shorter paragraphs to make it easier to read.

It is also helpful to post this information via social media. Creating an HR blog with concise and easy-to-understand information is a simpler way to communicate with employees. Allow workers to post comments and questions. It is important to match the form of communication with the right generation. While most Baby Boomers prefer face-to-face meetings and written material, Millennials prefer electronic communication.

It is important for employers to communicate with workers about benefits throughout the year. Employers should proofread correspondence before it is sent out to eliminate any complex terms that HR managers may automatically use. When it comes to communicating with employees, the key to good communication is keeping the audience in mind at all times.

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