Building Trust in Your 2020 Benefits

by | Dec 16, 2019 | HR and Culture

As humans, we don’t trust what we don’t know. Researchers have called fear of the unknown “the ultimate fear,” suggesting we’d prefer to do a thing we know will end badly than try something new without knowing the outcome. Our brains are already working hard to discourage new experiences. Add to this a consistent wave of data breaches, and it’s harder than ever to trust our personal information, whether medical or financial, to a nameless, faceless benefits company.

Building trust is a critical step to rolling out a new benefit. Employees are more likely to try something they trust, meaning this factor can drive utilization rates and cost containment efforts.

Here, we’ll explore what we know about building trust and how you can apply it to your new 2020 benefits offering.

Build trust with real-world examples

Trust isn’t a well-defined term. We’re still researching the best way to categorize, gauge, and build trust. The way we learn to trust each other, for instance, might be different than how we determine whether a brand is trustworthy. But there are some common threads.

One area of psychological research theorizes we decide to trust based on four things: benevolence, integrity, competence, and predictability. We know, too, that humans prize warmth above everything, including competence, when deciding whether to trust.

Let’s say you’re rolling out a new telemedicine benefit in 2020. Your employees might be reluctant to try a consultation from their phone. That fear might center on many things; maybe they don’t think their medical professional will be competent, or they crave a face-to-face connection. How do you put their minds at ease and build trust in your new benefit?

Tell them a story.

Brands hoping to build trust often focus on proving how well they can do something. They promote statistics highlighting their success rates, their speed, or their competence. The same is true of a new benefit offering. You might reiterate to employees that they can talk with a trained medical professional over the phone or that the consultation is inexpensive. But those facts lack the warmth of a real-life story.

To build trust in your new benefit, use social proof. Explain that a new mom with a sick baby can use her telemedicine to contact a provider, from home, in the middle of the night. If your HR department or upper management has used the new benefit themselves, ask them to share their stories in detail (see Why Employees Don’t Use Your EAP Program for more).

If the benefit is brand new, you may not have stories from your own office to share. Ask your benefits provider to share examples of member success. Make these widely available to employees, especially as you’re rolling out your new benefit. Researchers agree that first impressions are essential to building trust.

Warmth is really about humanity. Nothing humanizes a benefit like a shared story.

Read our Employee Benefits Communication Guide for more.

Make data security protocols accessible

Once a company breaches our trust, research shows, it’s difficult (and sometimes impossible) to restore.

We’re uploading more of our lives to the Internet than ever before. Yet a recent Pew Research Center poll showed 80% of Americans don’t trust companies with their data. It’s not hard to guess why: over the last decade, major players like Facebook, Marriott, Target, and Equifax have suffered very public and very widespread breaches of consumer data.

Most of your benefits, from 401k to EAP, will require an exchange of data. They’ll be touching some of the most profoundly personal data your employees could share, so trust is crucial. Knowing you’ll be fighting an uphill battle, it’s important to start establishing trust as soon as you roll out your new benefit.

To start, ask for the specifics of your benefits providers’ data security and privacy protocols. Employees may want to know how a benefits provider uses their healthcare data and how their third-party financial accounts are secured. Does your benefits provider have a page with this information that’s in plain English? Are there security badges to include alongside their logo?

Work these into benefits communications from the beginning, remembering that first impressions are essential (see How to Simplify Benefits Communication for Open Enrollment for more).

Solicit feedback often

As you work at building trust in employee benefits, you’ll need to measure progress. Employee feedback can help you identify gaps in employee trust before they widen into issues that tank utilization.

Your first indicator will be utilization, or in the case of app-based benefits, activation. Do employees trust your benefits provider enough to give it a try? Your benefits provider should be able to show you regular performance reports with these numbers and work with you to fix any poor performance.

Of course, these numbers will only show you a big-picture idea of any significant objections. To get more granular feedback, you may need to run a benefits checkup of your own. Anonymous survey tools like SurveyMonkey are a great way to solicit feedback from employees.

Once you’ve identified those gaps in trust, you can work them into your year-round communication plan. Don’t forget to ask your benefits provider for a link to their FAQ—chances are your employees have questions they’ve heard before.

Read our Employee Assistance Program Guide for more tips on making benefits work better.

Finally, remember that your benefits provider is also responsible for building trust with employees. As an HR department, you can champion a benefit, but you can’t determine your employees’ experience.

Your benefits provider should partner with you to keep employees satisfied and build trust through excellent service.

Help employees by building trust in new benefits

Any relationship requires trust to succeed, and your employees’ relationship to their benefits is no different. To drive utilization and cost-containment efforts, help them build trust in your new benefit as soon as you roll it out. Use real-world examples for social proof, outline data security protocols to overcome their fears, and keep your finger on the pulse of their concerns. Building trust in benefits is a long game, but focusing on these few factors can help you get ahead of the curve.

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