For many young folks, entering the workforce as a full-time working adult is both exciting and daunting. The sudden access to more money, more responsibility and more choice can be overwhelming. Young workers are not only navigating the ins and outs of the working world, but they’re often asked to make decisions about their benefits, like health care, without fully understanding what these programs offer or why they’re incredibly beneficial. Often young employees do not realize the benefits of dental benefits.
“Many young folks lack the foresight to realize how important the benefits offered through insurance are until they need them, and by then, it’s generally too late,” says Heather Mollon, senior director of client relationships at Delta Dental of Arizona.
As such, it’s important for employers to play an active role in helping their young workforce feel empowered to make good decisions about their overall and oral health.
We talked with our vice president of people and organizational development, Jolean Fleck, and our senior director of client relationships, Heather Mollon, to gather their insights on how employers and benefits representatives can engage younger employees about signing up for and using their dental insurance. Together they represent more than 40 years of knowledge in human resources and benefits administration.
Why do you think it can be challenging to engage a younger generation of employees about signing up for and using their dental benefits?
JF: Fortunately for most young people, their teeth have probably been healthy and low maintenance since their adult teeth arrived. Getting braces or a filling is probably the biggest drama they’ve experienced, so they may enter adulthood with the sense that dental insurance is secondary to health insurance and may be something they can skip if they are new to the workforce and watching their budgets. The challenge is educating our entry-level employees on all the ways that dental health is intertwined with the rest of their bodies.
HM: We’re living in a time of instant access to goods and services. With the push of a button your groceries, Apple watch, Uber driver or repairman will appear almost instantly. However, our younger generation may not yet realize there are limiting rules that apply to when, and under what circumstances, they can sign up for insurance and they may not understand the relevance of these benefits to their future well-being and financial security.
How can employers help younger workers understand the importance of maintaining their oral health by taking advantage of their dental benefits?
JF: When employers invest in medical insurance disproportionately to their investment in dental insurance, it sends the message that maybe it’s optional. Make dental benefits part of the ongoing conversations you have with employees about their health benefits—not as a side item, but as a critical part of a comprehensive benefits plan.
HM: It may sound simple, but often it works well to relate benefits to real-life situations and play out the pros and cons with them. Help them to see how their insurance benefits personally affect their lifestyle and finances. For example, when communicating the importance of dental insurance and oral health, start with a question like, “Would you date someone with rotting or missing teeth?” or “What is your first impression of someone you meet with rotting or missing teeth?”
Going a step further, when explaining the details of the benefits themselves, such as deductibles and coinsurance, give actual examples of how a typical service would be covered on the plan and what the cost impact would be to the employee without insurance.
What mistakes do young workers make when it comes to their health care and more specifically their oral health care?
JF: They sometimes assume no news is good news, and if they just brush and floss and aren’t experiencing any pain, then it’s ok to skip on cleanings and preventive dental visits. An ounce of prevention is still worth a pound of cure. Sometimes younger employees forget about how much sugar sneaks into their food and drinks, so we keep toothbrushes and toothpaste in our restrooms so employees can do a lunchtime refresh!
HM: As with most of us in our younger years, we see ourselves as impervious. The health issues of our senior counterparts seem such a long way off from ever becoming reality. Young folks may not have the knowledge, experience or understanding that good health starts early on in the way of prevention. That’s why it’s important to take measures to ensure the good health they enjoy now in their youth will be preserved into their later years.
What role should company leaders take when it comes to educating younger employees about their dental insurance?
JF: HR is the central point of contact and information when it comes to all things benefit related. When we present information on medical plans and features, dental must be part of that picture. If we don’t invest in dental or position it as an important piece of their health and well-being, then employees won’t see it that way either.
HM: With younger employees we usually see either of the following scenarios: (A) They skip on benefits altogether to save money or (B) They enroll in too much insurance because they don’t know how to weigh out the risks associated with each policy. With both scenarios, it comes down to education. Young workers may not even know what questions to ask when making decisions about their insurance; this makes the selection process during open enrollment especially ambiguous for them to navigate.
It becomes even more important for employers to take a paternalistic role in educating their workforce about the insurance options available to them. But even offering educational information will only go so far. Eventually, the communication becomes like reruns on tv or a broken record. People will disengage if it’s the same predictable messaging year over year. Employers should find creative ways to mix it up and change the information, find a new approach and even throw in occasional rewards or incentives to keep interest fresh.
Can you share any success stories or tactics you and your teams have used to help engage young workers?
JF: Making dental visits a prerequisite to our wellness discount alongside medical visits has been an effective way of communicating the importance of dental health. We also invest heavily in contributions to dental insurance premiums so employees at all income levels can afford quality care. We’ve also included a third dentist visit per year for the same reasons. Research has established a strong correlation between dentist visits and overall health. If we want a healthy workforce, dental is an easy and obvious place to start.
HM: One of the best ways our teams have successfully engaged workers is to include case studies with their presentations that outline specific utilization scenarios. This helps young folks to truly understand how the policy works and to begin to ask questions about how it relates to them in their lives.
However, perhaps the most effective method to engage any workforce is to be an approachable, knowledgeable benefits representative. Our job in sales is to serve as a guide for the end user. The more we can open ourselves up and offer personal assistance, the more our employer partners and members feel empowered by their insurance coverage to utilize health care with confidence.
If you’re ready to explore dental insurance options or if you’re already a client and want help engaging your workforce in their insurance offering, contact our sales team or check out these additional resources:
- 5 Ways to Show Remote Employees You Care About Their Oral Health
- Helping Employees Get the Most Value Out of Their Dental Benefits
- How Dental Benefits Improve Employees’ Well-Being