Communication leads to effective employee benefits strategy
Educating workers about their benefits has never been more important.
But like everything else, your employee benefits communication plans and strategies have been hit hard by COVID-19, forcing your team to quickly adapt communication practices to address a myriad of issues.
A (short) list:
- employee costs;
- telehealth employee assistance programs;
- vaccine and testing incentives;
- mental health benefits;
- flexible work arrangements;
- and, sadly, COBRA and other alternatives for furloughed and terminated employees.
Between the challenges created by remote work, employees’ changing needs and new policies and regulations coming out of federal and state governments, you’ll be dealing with more changes over the course of this year and beyond. The amount of effort involved in communicating and educating will be, to use a massively overused word, unprecedented.
Getting started with employee benefits communication
To implement and manage benefits communication efforts effectively, it’s critical that your messaging is personalized, targeted, timely, accessible and, ideally, integrated with your benefits enrollment platform.
Ask yourself these questions to see if your benefits communication strategy is on the right track:
Personalized: Is the message speaking directly to employees’ questions and concerns, or is it just another generic benefits infomercial they’ll ignore or even resent? Employees need information about their doctors, hospitals and medications, and they seek answers that specifically address their healthcare needs. Consider using your benefits portal to house a documents library or even create specific microsites designed to make relevant information quick and easy to find by both employees and their family members.
Targeted: Have you sent relevant information to each employee that is specific and actionable based on their (constantly changing) situation? By integrating communication efforts with a benefits management platform, you could identify opportunities to encourage specific employees to use urgent care or telehealth options instead of relying on emergency rooms, guiding them to resources available within 25 miles of their ZIP code using push notifications, text messages or email alerts.
Timely: Can you deliver critical information to employees when they need it and, ideally, even before they know they need it? For example, is a dependent child about to age out of coverage? Has a new provider location opened in their area? Do they need to complete an annual physical to lower their contribution or deductible? Take advantage of your benefits technology provider’s push notifications feature so you can get these messages to employees on their phone, eliminating the risk of an email getting lost in a crowded inbox.
Accessible: Have you presented this information in a format that makes sense to each employee, whether that's via email, text, web portal post, mobile app notification, or some combination of all the above that they can self-select? This is especially critical for employees who are in the field every day or who don’t use email or other e-tools as part of their daily workflow.
How to create an employee benefits communication plan
At this point, you may be asking yourself, “Is this something I really need to know? I’m not a marketer, I’m HR.” And that’s a fair question. But the reality is that the role of benefits technology and administration outsourcing providers has become increasingly sophisticated and supportive over the years, and your benefits partner has the tools to minimize typically tedious administrative processes. Some industry experts predict that “benefits professionals’ roles will change to become more marketers to communicate benefit programs and be less about interface/error management and processing.”
Our goal at benefitexpress is to provide you with the insight you need as your role evolves ¾ both as a result of the pandemic and as the industry naturally shifts over time. To help you get started in the world of employee benefits communication, here’s a planning framework you can use to design a 2021 communications campaign.
2021 employee benefits communication plan checklist
- What do you want to accomplish with this campaign?
- How will you measure success?
- Whom are you speaking to?
- Why is this topic important to them?
- What are the key points? (Remember to use plain language. If you can, appoint one of your benefits pros as the jargon killer!)
- What is the Why? (Why was the decision made? Why is the change occurring? Why do they need to act quickly?)
Call to action(s):
- What action(s) do you need employees to take?
- How do they complete the action(s) successfully?
- Have you broken down all barriers to action?
Key dates and deadlines:
- What are the important dates/deadlines employees need to know?
- What will happen if these deadlines are not met?
- What touchpoints will you use to deliver the information?
- Intranet postings
- Custom content zones in benefits portals
- Payroll stuffers
- Training guides
- All-staff meetings via video or audio conference
- Push notifications
- Face-to-face meetings via video conference
- When do you need to start communicating this information to employees?
- How frequently will you communicate with employees?
- How will you measure overall campaign performance against your goals?
- Will you survey your employees for feedback? If so:
- What questions will you ask?
- When will you survey?
- How will you survey (in what format?)
- How will you implement recommendations for changes?
Could your employee benefits communication strategy use an upgrade?
While it’s never been simple to design, implement and manage an effective employee benefits communication strategy, the results are worth the hard work:
- Better employee decisions matching needs to plan options
- More engaged employees interacting with your benefits resources throughout the year, not just around open enrollment time
- Fewer underinsured employees
- Total flexibility for making proactive improvements to your campaigns and responding quickly to inevitable changes
- Measurable cost savings
Good communication around benefits is important year-round, not just during enrollment. With benefitexpress, you’ll get custom-crafted communication strategies aimed at making sure your team understands and makes the best use of their benefits.
Our team comes from all over, but each member has deep experience in marketing or in-house communications, with backgrounds at companies like Aon, Caterpillar, FedEx, Coca-Cola, Pfizer, United and more.
We offer a suite of communications services to make sure your employees understand their benefits packages. These include open enrollment campaigns, benefits microsites, direct mail pieces and email communications, all branded to be extensions of your company and internal benefits team.
benefitexpress can help your employees learn more about their benefits and get the most out of the packages your team has worked hard to put together. Give us a call or download our product sheet to learn more.