“If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude.” —Maya Angelou
“The more things change, the more they stay the same.” —Alphonse Karr
“Change is inevitable. Change is constant.” —Benjamin Disraeli
Not many people get excited about change. While change is an inevitable part of our working life, maybe today, more than ever, most people want to run rather than deal with the stress change brings. Personally, I’ve changed jobs this year, having started at the International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans in January 2017 as an Information/Research Specialist. A part of any new job is learning as much as you can as quickly as you can about a wide variety of topics. One of the things I definitely wanted to learn more about was the multiemployer plans community.
In June, I attended the five-day Essentials of Multiemployer Trust Fund Administration class held here at the International Foundation with a large group of trust funds administrators. Aside from the technical topics that I learned about in this class, it was apparent from the class participants that many are dealing with challenges caused by a common factor—change. Most common were personnel changes within the fund administration office and the need to continually educate and communicate with participants in a changing world. You’re probably dealing with these same issues in your own organization.
During the five days, several of the sessions led to discussions within the class, especially the one titled “Communicating Change and Essential Information.” Presented by Tupper Hillard, this topic sparked much conversation within the group. During this session, many mentioned the dynamics of changing staff in their fund offices due to retirements, promotions and new hires and the inevitable communication challenges that come with these changes. Class participants also discussed the never-ending role of the plan sponsor in educating participants and communicating about their benefits.
[Hear more from Tupper Hillard in this free member webcast—Making the Connection: How to Make Your Benefits Communications Work]
While the types of change varied, the approaches to dealing with the change did not. Good communication is key.
Hillard emphasized that benefits communication should concentrate on:
- What participants want to hear—What’s in it for me? Participants want to hear how they’ll personally be affected and what they’ll have to do, if anything.
- The context—the health care environment, economy, the organization’s position, etc.
- The facts—negative and positive. Employers should aim for transparency.
- The “contract” by illustrating “we’re in this together.” Build your organization’s team approach by emphasizing that you’re all working towards common goals.
- What do I do? (This could mean doing something or doing nothing—Just make it clear!) Clarify what responsibilities they’ll have. Do they need to make annual selections, or will they be enrolled in the same benefits unless they make changes?
- Confidence and a focus on stability. Be as honest as you can!
- “We’re listening to you.” Ask for questions and comments, and have staff members be prepared with the answers. Also, a great idea is to communicate these questions and answers back to everyone through a newsletter, your website or your social media page.
I’ll bet you can relate to these due to your own organization’s growth or initiatives. As an Information Specialist, I’ve seen requests for best practices in benefits communications from all kinds of plan sponsors, so I know there’s a struggle to create an effective strategy year in and year out. There’s no one-size-fits-all approach that works for all organizations, so be flexible and willing to change.
The International Foundation offers an online collection of resources to help. Visit Benefits Communication for Plan Sponsors for sample documents, reports, survey results and more.
Anne Newhouse, CEBS
Information/Research Specialist at the International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans