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Explain the Benefits Change

Spend time explaining the changes, why they are important and how it will affect the organization long-term. 

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Answer 'What’s in It for Me?'

Be honest, clear and consistent as you answer this question.

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Be Honest About Benefit Changes

State the change, explain the why and make the connection to how it benefits employees. 

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Give Employees Time to Absorb the Change

Tell employees what’s happening and why well before open enrollment. Then tell them again. And again. 

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Employee Communications is a Conversation

This opportunity helps employees feel prepared for the change and supported by the company.

As the saying goes, the only constant in life is change. And employees likely see more change with their benefits than any other part of their overall rewards and compensation.

For those rooted in the benefits world, this does not surprise you. After all, benefits are expensive—and employers today walk a tightrope as they try to balance quality benefits with a price everyone can afford. As a result, we’re seeing more benefit changes year to year than ever before. 

If you have a big benefit changing coming during open enrollment this fall, you need to begin planning for it well before it’s time for employees to choose their benefits for the coming year. If employees don’t understand why a change is happening, this can lead to resistance, push-back and just general dissatisfaction with the company. 

Benefits are one of the core ways employees feel cared for by their employers, so it’s critical to get it right—and that includes communicating any changes to benefits. 

As you communicate a big benefits change, you should make sure your communication includes these five strategic elements: big picture explanation, 'What’s in it for me?', transparency, time and dialogue. 

Big Picture Explanation

In recent years, benefits changes—particularly for healthcare benefits—seem to be the expectation rather than the exception. Most mid- to large employers are regularly experiencing some sort of change during open enrollment—this includes everything from changes in healthcare carriers to plan designs (including phasing out the more costly medical plans) and more narrow networks (a trend we’ll continue to see) to eligibility and policy changes (spousal coverage is one of the hot topics right now). 

One Westcomm client explained to its employees that company medical costs were increasing annually at a rate that would be difficult to sustain without employee engagement and support. The employer outlined how much costs had increased in just a few years and specifically how employees could help control those costs. This brought employees into the bigger picture goal and created a “we’re in this together” mentality. 

Spend time explaining the changes and why they are important or necessary and how it will affect the organization long-term.

What’s in It for Me?

This is one of the most important pieces of information you can share. Be clear and consistent as you answer this question. If you’re adding more value, then outline how. And if you need behavioral change to avoid higher costs or less coverage, state that as well. 

Answering this question is the key to motivating employees to accept or adapt to any benefit changes.   

These types of changes are significant for employees for one very good reason: they affect the pocketbook. And that makes people passionate about them, particularly if they don’t feel prepared or understand what a particular change means for them. 


Be upfront and honest about changes. Try to: 

  • State the change 
  • Explain the why 
  • Make the connection to how the change benefits them and the company 

Don’t try to disguise or sugarcoat it—employees can read right through that most of the time anyway. 


When you have a big change—like new health plans or a phasing out of a highly elected plan—it’s important to give employees time to absorb the coming change. That means, you tell them what’s happening and why well before open enrollment. Then you tell them again. You should also provide education on new plans, concepts, funding accounts, etc. In addition to telling employees this information multiple times, it’s beneficial to tell them about it several ways.

We all learn differently, so be sure to provide a mix of communication materials so your message is reinforced multiple times and in multiple ways.    

Employee Communications – Start the Year Right

Employee communications is a conversation.


In order for employees to accept and adapt to a change, they may need to talk about it—with supervisors or those leading the change. That conversation may happen one-on-one, in an in-person Q&A format or even online. Another Westcomm client rolled out three brand-new medical plans (while concurrently phasing out three long-time medical plans) and knew that they would have to engage in employee dialogue to aid understanding as well as ease concerns. Given that this occurred while the organization was mainly remote, they posted articles and resources on the intranet (along with mailing detailed information to homes) and allowed employees to post questions. Every day for a few weeks, a benefits expert answered each of the questions and directed employees to the call center help line or an online resource if they needed more information. Employees actively engaged in this forum, and some were even able to answer each other’s questions as they began watching all online Q&As. 

By providing the opportunity for dialogue, employees feel more prepared for the change and supported by the company.  

The Bottom Line: By having a clearly planned communication strategy for a significant benefits change, companies are better able to facilitate a transition.

This also allows everyone to understand why change is necessary and what role each one plays in it. If you have a significant benefits change coming that will impact your employee population, consider how to build in these strategic elements for greatest success.