Allowing your workforce to participate in selecting the right benefits plan can be empowering for all parties. As your company becomes more diverse, it may be necessary to tailor employee health insurance and benefits packages to their needs in order to make your business highly competitive in the marketplace. Your employees will certainly be glad to offer their input: According to the 2013 Health and Voluntary Workplace Benefits Survey, 88 percent of employees state that health insurance is the most important of all benefits their employer provides. Going off this data, it’s essential to be sure that you are in lockstep with your workforce’s needs. Here’s how you can communicate effectively with them.

Hold Meetings to Solicit Input

Allowing your employees to voice their opinions and/or concerns is essential to the process, so start holding meetings ahead of time when you’re still solidifying upcoming plans. The key to success here is making it clear that you’re holding an open forum where people can give ideas without judgment, followed by a frank discussion of how their ideas could be implemented. Naturally, there will be impractical ideas brought to light, but when there is a rational explanation concerning why a suggestion can’t be used, there may be room for compromise or at least a clear understanding of the final decision.

Educate Your Workforce

Decisions about insurance coverage can be intimidating for your employees. To help them out, you should provide benefits plan education. HR people are a great choice for moderating these meetings and answering inquiries concerning coverage and benefits. Some of your employees may not feel comfortable asking questions in this format, so you should arrange with your insurance carrier for a hotline or client manager who can provide support. Above all, it’s important that your employees have adequate time and information to allow them to make informed decisions concerning their benefits.

Time It Right

Most companies designate a period in the fourth quarter of the year as the annual enrollment period so that employee health insurance benefits can commence at the beginning of the first quarter. Whatever your timing on this, start gradually by announcing the enrollment period and providing information concerning how it will proceed. Depending on the size of your company, you may want to do this via a combination of written and online materials. Providing information that employees can read at their own pace will allow time for them to organize their thoughts and compose questions that can be asked at a later date.

Workplaces are becoming more diversified, and prospective employees are increasingly aware of the value of benefits packages. In order to keep pace, employers have to understand trends and the changing needs of their workforce. By listening to your employees and potentially shifting from traditional benefits packages to something less conventional, you’re showing your workforce — as well as potential new hires — your willingness to be flexible to meet their needs.

Mary Parsons is retired from a 30-year career in the insurance industry. She worked in the claims department of a major insurance carrier as a claims adjuster, manager and a member of a catastrophe team. Since her retirement, she has developed a career as a freelance writer. As an insurance professional, she has been a contributor to several insurance websites.