9 Ways to Perfect Employee Benefits Communication

Despite benefit plans being valued now more than ever, according to Harvard Business Review only 41% of employers feel their employees are qualified to select a benefits plan that is best fit for them. Furthermore, only 35% of employers feel that their employees are knowledgeable about the quality and cost of health care, including mental health and career development benefits. It’s clear that there is an employer-employee disconnect regarding benefits. This gap can be bridged through effective employee benefits communication, enhancing overall employee satisfaction and job satisfaction.

Explaining employee benefits communication and its importance

Employee benefits communication is the vital link between employers and employees, serving as the cornerstone of a healthy, engaged workforce. It encompasses the dissemination of information regarding various benefits packages, including healthcare, retirement plans, wellness programs, and more. Clear and effective communication in this realm is crucial as it ensures that employees understand the value of their benefits, how to access them, and the role they play in overall compensation.

Moreover, transparent communication fosters trust and loyalty, demonstrating to employees that their well-being is a priority for the organization. By prioritizing employee benefits communication, companies not only empower their workforce to make informed decisions but also cultivate a positive company culture where employees feel supported and appreciated.

What is employee benefits communication?

Employee benefits communication refers to the process that employers use to communicate information to employees about their benefits package – like the value and cost of benefits plans, information about enrollment, and how to make the most out of their coverage, including health benefits and retirement savings planning. Effective communication in this area is a key aspect of human resource management and plays a crucial role in employee engagement.

Challenges in today’s employee benefits communication.

The current state of benefits communication is not engaging enough for people to be inclined to educate themselves on their benefits. Long-standing norms in communication like booklets and seminars are not meeting the current workforce where they are, especially in a digital era where social media and real-time communication are prevalent. In a day-in-age where benefits are now used as leverage to attract top talent in an increasingly difficult job market, one might think that the delivery of benefits information would be better than ever. Unfortunately, this is not the case; employers and employees alike still struggle with employee benefits one way or another.

Importance of having a good employee benefits communication strategy

Having a robust employee benefits communication strategy is paramount in today’s competitive job market. It’s not just about offering great benefits; it’s about effectively communicating their value to employees. A well-thought-out strategy ensures that employees are fully aware of the benefits available to them, how to utilize them, and the ways in which they contribute to their overall well-being.

Clear and comprehensive communication not only helps in attracting and retaining top talent but also enhances employee satisfaction and engagement. Furthermore, a good benefits communication strategy can lead to increased productivity and morale, as employees feel valued and supported by their employer. In an age where employee expectations are high, investing in a strong benefits communication strategy is essential for organizational success and employee retention.

What can a bad employee benefits communication strategy cause

A lackluster employee benefits communication strategy can wreak havoc on an organization in various ways. Without clear and effective communication, employees may be unaware of the full scope of benefits available to them, leading to underutilization or even resentment. Misunderstandings or confusion about benefits can result in decreased employee satisfaction, morale, and productivity.

Additionally, a poorly executed benefits communication strategy can erode trust between employees and management, fostering a sense of disengagement and disconnection from the company. Ultimately, this can lead to higher turnover rates as employees seek opportunities with organizations that prioritize transparent and informative benefits communication. Thus, neglecting to invest in a solid benefits communication strategy can have far-reaching negative consequences for both employees and the overall success of the business.

What can be done?

To get the message across, first acknowledge that the commonplace communication channels for benefits information are not doing a good job at keeping people engaged. Instead of using the usual jargon filled booklets, seminars, and meetings, try meeting employees where they’re most receptive to the message. The best way to reach employees today is through their inbox. This isn’t just exclusive to email, as mobile phone text messages and teams chats are also just as effective. Employees may prefer one method of communication or the other, so it’s recommended that a mix of communication channels is used to deliver benefits information.

With the right channels of communication in place, employees will begin to engage with your message. But, the language in the message must be easily understood in order to keep employees engaged. Benefits are complicated; however, benefits information can still be shared in a way that is concise and easily understood, avoiding jargon and acronyms that might confuse employees.

The best way to avoid confusing people is not to use jargon. Keep it simple by assuming employees do not have a good understanding of benefits terminology, because they don’t. According to Rutgers University, only 14% of Americans understand basic insurance terminology like premiums, deductibles, and maximum out-of-pocket expense. Similar to jargon, using acronyms may also confuse employees. Take a moment to explain what the program is, rather than using the full name of the program instead.

For example, instead of saying “we offer an EAP”, say something like “your benefits include a counseling resource you can contact for assistance”.

The next key aspect to engaging employee benefits communication is presentation. People don’t want to look at tons of words; bring your message to life by using visual imagery, videos, color, etc. Make sure to incorporate your brand image in the communication presentation. This not only keeps the copy consistent with a company’s brand image but will offer a sense of familiarity for employees. Think about a time you saw an advertisement for a brand you like. You probably engaged with the advertisement, because you’re invested in that brand. The same applies for a company brand, it’s much easier for employees to engage with a brand they’re familiar with, rather then branding of health care companies.

9 ways to execute a perfect employee benefits communication strategy

Knowing how to keep your employees engaged is great, but there needs to be a purpose behind why you want their attention. Communicating about benefits for the sake of it won’t get you anywhere. Instead, set clear goals for what kind of outcome you need from your communication strategy. For example, are you trying to prepare employees for open enrollment? Or do you want to encourage employees to enroll in your 401(k)? Keep your message specific to a certain outcome to avoid confusion on what to do next.

Employees aren’t all at the same place in life, so it’s important to avoid using generic pain points in the copy. Again, the name of the game is engagement; there’s nothing less engaging than reading things you can’t relate to. The best way to address the needs and concerns of everyone is to segment the audience into different personas. Personas can be spouses/partners, younger employees, managers, etc. For example, when discussing 401(k) enrollment, it may be better to leave newer employees out of the conversation, as they likely won’t be eligible to participate for a while.

At first, deploying a benefits communication strategy is like a game of darts. You aim for the center, but sometimes you miss the target. Sometimes the kind of messaging and channels used will be effective, other times they won’t. Although this might sound discouraging, it’s actually an opportunity to figure out what’s working and leave behind what’s not. Using email as an example: if an email campaign was sent out, check out the click-through and open rates to see how much engagement there was. A communication strategy is one that changes over time. There will undoubtedly be roadblocks along the way, but every setback is an opportunity to learn and improve.

Set clear goals

Before diving into employee benefits communication, define clear objectives. Determine what you aim to achieve with your communication strategy, whether it’s increasing employee awareness, enhancing utilization of benefits, or improving overall satisfaction.

Know your audience & determine the message

Understand your employees’ demographics, needs, and preferences to tailor your message effectively. Define the key points you want to convey about each benefit, ensuring it resonates with your audience’s interests and concerns.

Draft the message you want to provide the employee

Craft your message in a clear, concise manner, highlighting the value and accessibility of each benefit. Ensure that the language used is easily understandable and free from jargon, making it accessible to all employees.

Choose communication channels & develop content

Select communication channels that best suit your workforce’s preferences, whether it’s email, intranet, benefits technology or face-to-face meetings. Develop engaging content that captures attention and effectively delivers your message across chosen channels.

Keep the text simple that a child can understand & keep it jargon-free

Simplify your message to ensure it’s easily comprehensible to all employees, regardless of their background or expertise. Avoid using technical jargon and complex language that may confuse or alienate your audience.

Tips to personalizing your message

Tailor your communication to resonate with individual employees, considering factors such as their life stage, preferences, and family situation. Personalization enhances relevance and increases engagement with benefits offerings.

  • Eliminate jargon: Strive to eliminate technical language and industry jargon from your communication to ensure clarity and accessibility for all employees.
  • Account for benefits knowledge differences: Recognize that employees may have varying levels of understanding about benefits. Provide comprehensive information while also offering additional resources or support for those who require further clarification.
  • Present information in easily scannable formats: Structure your communication in a visually appealing and easily scannable format, utilizing bullet points, headings, and concise paragraphs to facilitate quick comprehension.
  • Have a clear call to action: Prompt employees to take specific actions, whether it’s enrolling in a new benefit program, scheduling a health screening, or accessing educational resources. A clear call to action encourages engagement and follow-through.
  • Connect the dots: Illustrate how each benefit aligns with the organization’s overall mission and values, demonstrating its significance in supporting employees’ well-being and professional growth.
  • Put all your information in one place: Centralize benefits information in a single, easily accessible location, such as an employee portal or benefits handbook. Consolidating information streamlines communication and ensures consistency across channels.
  • Employ good information design: Utilize design elements such as color, typography, and imagery to enhance readability and visual appeal. Effective information design reinforces key messages and improves overall engagement.

Measure progress and results of your strategy

Implement metrics to track the effectiveness of your communication strategy, such as employee engagement surveys, benefit utilization rates, or feedback mechanisms. Analyzing data allows you to assess the impact of your efforts and make informed adjustments as needed.

Build a Follow-Up Strategy & Document Everything

Develop a plan for ongoing communication and follow-up to reinforce key messages and address any questions or concerns that may arise. Documenting your communication efforts ensures consistency and provides a reference for future initiatives and improvements.

Build a year-round employee benefits communication plan

Building a comprehensive year-round employee benefits communication plan is essential for maintaining engagement and maximizing the value of benefits offerings. Rather than a one-time effort, such a plan involves consistent and strategic communication throughout the year. Start by outlining key milestones, such as open enrollment periods, new benefit additions, or changes in policy. Then, map out a communication schedule that includes regular updates, reminders, and educational content to keep employees informed and engaged. By adopting a proactive approach to benefits communication, organizations can ensure that employees stay connected, empowered, and well-informed about their benefits year-round.

Create an iterative process

Benefits operate in a cycle throughout the year, so the communication strategy should as well. Iteration can help you improve your communication strategy and make ever evolving benefits easier to handle if you incorporate it into your planning process. This process involves deploying and ending strategies, setting goals, segmenting audiences, encouraging action with messages, measuring outcomes, and reflecting and refining based on employee feedback.

An iterative process may look like this:

  1. Deploying (and ending) a strategy.
  2. Set goals and objectives.
  3. Segment audience and behaviors.
  4. Encourage action with messages.
  5. Measure outcomes.
  6. Reflect and refine.

Gather employee feedback to improve your strategy

Employee feedback is another avenue for improving a benefits communication strategy. Employee feedback is essentially the best insight into how effective a communication strategy is – employees are the audience after all. When it comes to collecting feedback, there are multiple approaches you can take. HR teams can send out employee surveys before and after enrollment, for example. However, while there is valuable knowledge to obtain from this, having an actual conversation with people provides a much deeper understanding of their opinion. Everyone wants to be heard, and effective leaders know that listening is one of the most important parts of their job. This is why one-on-one interviews are so effective. Interviews are a great way to get honest, thorough feedback.

When conducting interviews, avoid asking leading questions. A leading question is one that elicits a desired answer. Here’s an example of a leading question: “Is a wellness benefit a good way to look after your health?” Reframe the question by asking “How do you feel about our wellness benefit?” This question allows the interviewee to think and give a thoughtful response. The interviewer should be knowledgeable on the topics covered to ask meaningful questions.

Like developing personas for messaging, it’s important to be strategic with who is interviewed or surveyed.  Avoid asking questions that aren’t relevant to certain groups of people. For example, it wouldn’t make sense to ask the entire organization about parental leave. Instead, it would make more sense to ask questions about parental leave to those who have recently returned from leave.

5 bonus recommendations and resources for employers

Create an Ongoing Conversation: Foster an environment of continuous dialogue about employee benefits throughout the year. Encourage feedback, questions, and discussions to ensure that employees feel heard and valued.

Build a Strong Brand: Infuse your benefits communication with elements of your company’s brand identity. Consistent branding helps to reinforce company culture and values, making benefits more relatable and memorable for employees.

Empower Managers: Provide training and resources to equip managers with the knowledge and tools to effectively communicate benefits to their teams. Managers play a crucial role in reinforcing messages and addressing employee concerns on a day-to-day basis.

Educate Employees Through Onboarding Process: Integrate benefits education into the employee onboarding process to ensure that new hires are well-informed from the start. This sets a positive tone for their employee experience and helps them make informed decisions about their benefits.

Invest in Building a Good Website: Develop a user-friendly and informative benefits website or portal where employees can easily access information, enroll in benefits, and find answers to their questions. A well-designed website enhances the employee experience and serves as a central hub for benefits communication and resources.

Mastering employee benefits communication

There is no shortcut to a successful communication strategy, but the time spent on perfecting the message is well worth it in the end. Investing in healthcare is a major expense for organizations of all size, so it’s critical to educate employees on their benefits. If employees do not understand the offerings they’re presented with, too much money may be spent on offerings that aren’t valuable. A consistent and effective communication strategy can help HR with curating a benefits package that truly knocks it out of the park for employees.

Employee benefits technology is great for communication. Technology provides in-depth, easy to understand tools like glossaries, plan comparison, and even deep analytical tools that help employees understand their benefits options. Learn more about how ebm can help foster strong benefits communication in your organization.

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