Fun fact: 91% of companies completing a post-dependent audit survey rate Communications as the #1 factor in the success or failure of their audit process.1 In fact, Dependent Audit Communications ranked higher than pricing, service, references, or any of the technology bells and whistles promised by vendors looking for an edge.
For any HR or Benefits leader who is considering a dependent audit, there are important factors to consider in crafting a Communication Strategy.
1. Who is your Audience?
Are they Millennials? Blue collar? Service workers? Baby Boomers? White collar? The demographic make-up of your employee population should be the strongest consideration when drafting a dependent audit communications strategy. Millennials text or email or get info online. They rarely expect traditional “snail mail” and many continue to get mail at their parents’ address while they live and work elsewhere. Some service workers are transient and frequently fail to keep employees updated on a mailing address until they need a W-2. Baby Boomers with established home addresses are inundated with junk mail, so a generic bulk letter mailed to a home may end up in the trash as spam.
2. Do you have visible Executive Support?
The Initial Announcement and explanation should come from Leadership, not an HR practitioner or the vendor. Employees are more likely to read communication from an internal leader than from a third party vendor. It is especially helpful if the message comes via company email, coupled with US mail on company letterhead and company envelope return address.
3. Will the Letter/Email be Opened?
Emails, whether from HR or vendor, should lead with a strong subject line. Letters mailed to employee homes by the vendor should state the names of the employers clearly on the envelope or through the window of the envelope, along with a plain benefits message. Example: Alert: ABC Company Benefits Information Enclosed.
4. What’s the correct Tone?
Communications should be positive, emphasizing employee value to the organization and highlighting the positive benefits of company-wide Dependent Verification. 90%+ of dependents are likely eligible, so don’t make it a Witch Hunt. Skip negative words like “penalty” or “must” or “audit”, especially early in the audit. The tone should evolve through the audit, however, becoming more urgent as the documentation submission deadline nears.
5. Are the Required Actions clear?
Messages must be concise, with plain language that clearly informs the employee of his/her required action, i.e. submitting verification documents. Color ink, bold, or italics help to emphasize the most critical points.
6. Where will your Focus be?
Communications should be centered on the Employee experience more than anything else. Submission options, tools, and resources should be highlighted instead of deadlines or consequences.
7. Are the Consequences clear?
Employees must know the ramifications for failure to comply, including the date any consequences will be executed, including removing dependents from coverage.
8. What Assistance will you offer?
It’s a fact – some employees will need help understanding the requirements, finding documents, or will need extra time. Dependent Audit communications should outline an abundance of help available to employees, whether through customer service, sources to find missing documents, or help with alternative insurance for removed dependents.
9. What is the Win for employees?
Communications should explain that dependent verification is good for all employees as it helps curb the cost of insurance increases and helps the company provide valuable benefits to employees and their families.
10. Is your Rule Golden?
When all else fails, remember the Golden Rule. Stand in the employee’s shoes and see the Dependent Verification project through their eyes. Absorb the Communications (posters, letters, emails, payroll stuffers) as they would. Then, and only then, make final decisions on communications.
William Yeats is credited with the quote, “Think like a wise man but communicate in the language of the people.” Incorporation of these above factors into a Dependent Audit Communication strategy leads to fluency with “the language of the people.” Employee participation will be maximized, disruption will be at a minimum, questions will be mitigated, and savings will be impacted.
As experts in Dependent Eligibility, we know what works in Dependent Audit Communication – and what doesn’t work. In fact, our company motto is “Sensitive Solutions. Real Savings” because we live in the business of Dependent Audit Communication. Ask us to help you craft your strategy, it will be our pleasure.
1. DSI Post-Audit client surveys 2013-2015
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