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“Health care reform and other factors are driving sweeping changes in how individuals and employers access health care.”

Seven years ago, Jennifer Benz left a large HR consulting firm and started taking on clients of her own. Jen was able to take her consulting team of one and grow that into a thriving business over a short period of time, during a downturn economy. Now at 22 people, Benz Communications continues to push the envelope in the niche-industry of employee benefits communication. By combining her health care know-how with innovative wellness and social media strategies, Jen has been able to evolve Benz Communications into a “small giant” that successfully competes against the big global insurance and outsourcing companies. Clients include Fortune 100 Best Companies to Work For and Fortune 500 companies. Jen has seen Benz Communications through to tremendous growth over the past few years. Over the two-year period 2009-2011, Benz Communications increased revenues to $2.2 million from $580,147.

Jen and Benz Communications’ work aims to improve the physical and financial health of employees, and in turn solve some of our nation’s biggest issues. Nearly 60% of Americans under the age of 65 have employer-provided health benefits, and 75% of employees look to their employer for health information. This puts employers in a unique position to make a difference in the lives of employees, their families, and by extension, help solve some of our country’s biggest challenges. And now, with health care reform on the horizon, huge changes are happening in the health care industry overall. Small companies are going to have new options for how their people get health care, and entrepreneurs and people who run small businesses should be making sure they have the right advisors in place to help them navigate through all the changes. Enter Benz Communications.

MO: Can you elaborate on how your pro bono experience prepared you for starting and growing your own company?

Jennifer: My pro bono experience provided inspiration and a spark that continues to drive my company’s passion for having a positive impact on people’s lives. Pro bono work has helped me uncover new talents and discover new meaning in my work and in my life. It’s let me take charge of my career, exposed me to new people and new situations, improved my problem-solving and analytical skills, and expanded my network.

MO: Why is it so important to make communication with your employees engaging and clear?

Jen: Employers spend huge amounts of money per employee on benefits in order to drive employee loyalty and engagement. If they’re offering great benefits but not effectively communicating them, employees are going to miss out on a lot. Employees are inundated with messages. If the communications are straightforward, simple and accessible, information will be more easily digestible and employees will be comfortable engaging and spending time with it.

MO: What are your thoughts on using social media when it comes to communicating about employee benefits?

Jennifer: Social media is a very effective and easy way to communicate year round with your employees. It’s a great way to feed your employee population bite-size pieces of important information, reminders, etc. Sixty-seven percent of adults use social networking and it is the number one online and mobile activity. While adults 18-29 and 30-49 are the biggest users of social networks—83 percent and 77 percent, respectively—52 percent are in the 50-64 age group. Companies that aren’t using social media are missing out on an easy and free way to communicate with employees year round.

MO: How will health care reform impact how companies provide health care benefits? What should our readers be paying attention to or preparing for in the coming year?

Jennifer: Health care reform and other factors are driving sweeping changes in how individuals and employers access health care. The impact of these changes varies according to the type and size of companies. MO.com readers—small to mid-size companies—should be looking at health care exchanges and how they’ll impact their benefits programs. The best advice I can give is that they align themselves with a trusted broker or consultant to help them navigate the changes. Here are some suggestions from a recent blog post: http://www.benzcommunications.com/blog/health-care-exchanges-employee-benefits-communication.

MO: How can employers contribute towards helping solve some of the nation’s most pressing problems like obesity and lack of retirement preparedness?

Jennifer: Right now, a lot of the national debate blames our health and financial problems on bad choices made by individuals. That kind of finger-pointing does little to help solve our nation’s problems. Employers have a lot at stake when it comes to the health and financial security of their workforce. They feel the impact of poor health and financial stress on productivity. And they all have a huge opportunity to help change these behaviors. Employers have more power and influence than most people expect. They are a trusted source of health information, and reach a large percentage of our country’s population. They have benefits-plan design levers that can aggressively encourage or force actions, such as requiring health actions or designing retirement programs that automatically help people save. They control the environment in which people spend the majority of their days, from the food available to whether the physical space encourages or discourages movement.

MO: What are you most looking forward to personally or professionally in 2013?

Jennifer: There’s a lot of work being done around health care reform. I’m excited about helping our clients be successful during this time of huge change. I’m thrilled that our team is growing and we’re building out our talent so we’re able to support more clients with more resources.

 

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