HR and benefits professionals share their benefits communication pet peeves

1. “Total Rewards” 1. “Total Rewards”

Chris Rylands (@cjrylands), an ERISA lawyer with Bryan Cave, shares via Twitter that “’Total Rewards’ is confusing to employees. ... Employees don't think of health insurance, for example, as a ‘reward.’”

2. Show the simple math behind the concept 2. Show the simple math behind the concept

“I'm not a huge fan of the way ‘coinsurance maximum’ is often used. I think employees can be confused regarding what exactly their out-of-pocket maximum is when they see a coinsurance maximum featured prominently in their plan documents. In these cases, it's easy to forget that a deductible might also be involved. It might seem like simple math, but showing the premium, deductible, coinsurance maximum and out-of-pocket maximum can go a long way in clarifying employee costs,” writes Alex Muehl, director of marketing & key accounts at The Jellyvision Lab, Inc.

3. More deductible confusion 3. More deductible confusion

“Lately I've had some employees use ‘not covered’ and ‘subject to the deductible’ synonymously. Then, I have to repeat how a deductible works and they say ‘that's what I meant.’ It scares me how some people perpetuate a false understanding this way,” posts Koriahn Quint, employee benefits and insurance representative at Kennebunk Savings Insurance, on the EBN group LinkedIn discussion.

4. Treat employees fairly with transparent explanations 4. Treat employees fairly with transparent explanations

Jay Barrett, human resources executive at Barrett Consultants in New York, considers cash balance plans “a perfect example of miscommunication” when many companies introduced them several years ago without “being honest with employees, and showing them the positives but not the negatives.”

Companies “talked about how great it was because of a lump sum feature, and accelerated vesting schedule, an accelerated balance commitment. What they did not say is that every one of those items can be done in a typical pension lan — every one: lump sum, vesting, balance allocation. Therefore, there is no need for a cash balance plan [because sponsors] could just amend the pension plan. But that is not what was communicated. … The real reason why companies went to cash balance [was] the bottom line and it saved the company money, but that reason was not communicated. … Leadership is about telling the truth — the good and the bad. Honest communication is key, and yet many tend to sugar coat things.”

5. Euphemisms don’t ease the pain 5. Euphemisms don’t ease the pain

"Use of 'savings' as part of any salary sacrifice," is the director & co-founder of UK company, Flying for Freedom, John Laity's personal peeve. "Taking a reduction in pay is not a saving," he posted on LinkedIn.

6. Repeat communication 6. Repeat communication

“We recently switched our office policy to an HMO/health savings account with a high deductible. Even though this policy tends to be far less expensive to the employees, many disagree until they view all the costs they paid the year before including premiums, co-pays etc. When they see both costs in comparison they change their mind and agree. The lower premium on the HSA is far less expensive after you compare everything. They end up seeing they are getting more for their money with this HSA. However, the downside of this HSA is that every time something has to be applied to their deductible, they are knocking on my door complaining about the policy again! Sometimes you just have to review it over and over again,” says Tina Rotondo, call center manager at Parker & Partners Marketing Resources.

7. Clarity is key 7. Clarity is key

Matt Dorrington, consultant at Concert Consulting (UK) Limited, writes: "My pet hate is when we communicate in a way we want to sound which is not always how the audience can understand our words. We hide behind jargon and buzz words and even words that are not in the English language in an attempt to be cutting edge. ... just talk in a way that people understand please."

Some HR terms and buzzwords are overused and ineffective to communicate benefits information to employees and report to executives. EBN readers shared benefits vocab or phrases they despise on our LinkedIn Group and on Twitter. What HR word or concept would you add to the list? [Images: Thinkstock]

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