Message Received

A water treatment company finds success educating its workforce on benefits through a cloud-based counselor.
 

By Justyn Harkin
 
 
Severn Trent Services understands water. From filtration and disinfection equipment to contract operations, its water treatment technologies and services help protect and preserve the world’s most precious resource.
 
 
Severn Trent Services’ domestic workforce comprises 1,600 benefits-eligible employees who work in more than 100 different manufacturing facilities or water/wastewater treatment plants around the country. Teams also work on client sites nationwide, and can include groups as small as two employees or as large as 160. But the average location size is 20 employees.
 
 
Faced with a geographically disparate workforce, Severn Trent Services wanted to find a better way to educate its employees about the complex issues around health benefits, and how to choose a plan most suitable to their needs. Delivering a consistent message to everyone at all locations and in the field became one of the company’s biggest communication challenges.
 
 
“I wish we had all 1,600 employees in one place so we could engage them more effectively,” explains Severn Trent Services Benefits Manager Marnie Vaughan. “The simple logistics of communicating is one of our biggest benefits challenges.”
Plan change was also a consideration with the looming impact of healthcare reform and its new requirements. The company wanted employees to see consumer-directed health plans (CDHP) as a viable and valuable choice—and look beyond the high deductible. They also wanted to explain how a health savings account (with employer funding) could add great value to this option.
 
 
“In terms of medical plan choice, people tend to stay where they are out of inertia, or they over-insure out of fear or lack of understanding,” says Vaughan. “We wanted to empower them to make informed choices about what would be a good value for them, and best meet their needs for good care and financial protection.”
 
 
Sending The Message
The Severn Trent Services benefits team knew that strong communication was the key to preparing employees to understand their options and make a change.
The team was looking for something simple: a decision-support tool that wasn’t too complicated or required too much employee guesswork.
 
 
After vetting a few options, they selected cloud-based solution ALEX, the Jellyvision Benefits Counselor®. Severn Trent Services partnered with Jellyvision to deliver education around its entire benefits package: medical, dental, and vision plans as well as information on tax and pharmacy savings. The tool provides decision support by asking a few simple questions about family size, likely medical needs, and eligibility criteria. Using employee-provided responses (which remain anonymous), ALEX explains the available benefit choices, compares their costs, and recommends the option that would best serve the employee’s needs.
 
 
The multi-media, interactive solution simplifies employee benefits communication by asking employees about their family, likely medical needs, and any eligibility criteria. By simplifying employee benefits options, ALEX helps employees select their most suitable medical plan through personalized recommendations. ALEX allowed Severn Trent Services every employee at every job site on every shift.
 
 
By presenting benefits information in plain, conversational English, Severn Trent Services was able to increase employee engagement in all its benefits options, including CDHPs. The benefits team also noticed a marked change in the level of understanding from employees who had used the tool. After using ALEX, employee questions became more specific and informed, focusing less on general issues or “how do I do this?” queries.
 
 
By the closing of its open enrollment period, the benefits team’s employee survey found that 100 percent of surveyed employees found the tax savings (including HSAs) education useful, and 99 percent found value from the new medical insurance explanations.
Working with ALEX helped employees see the value in choosing other medical plan options. According to Vaughan, a natural migration among the plans continues.
 
 
“Using ALEX is a win for our entire team,” says Vaughan. “It helps make sure our employees are making effective decisions and using their health care resources in a smart way.”
 
 
Severn Trent Services was also able to use the tool to educate new hires while taking some of the benefits burden off of regional HR staff, local managers, and supervisors. Meanwhile, the benefits team is assured that new hires have access to consistent and clear information about their important new benefits.
 
 
“The ability to take complex issues and make them very simple for people to understand was part of what attracted us to ALEX,” says Vaughan. “I even learned a thing or two myself.”
 
 
Justyn Harkin is a communications specialist at The Jellyvision Lab, provider of ALEX®, the Jellyvision Benefit Counselor.
 

Posted January 3, 2013 in Engaged Workforce

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