7 Tips to Enhance Your Annual Benefits Communications Program
Your company’s benefit package is a significant investment in your employees. Properly designed, positioned, and communicated, it is one of the best tools in your arsenal to attract the right talent, enhance employee engagement, and retain your most valuable employees. As you head into your annual open enrollment, it is more important than ever to carefully plan your employee communications strategy around the benefits you are offering this year.
The good news is that some large portions of the major work are already completed. You’ve conducted the analysis of your workforce, studied usage and costs, possibly surveyed your employees regarding their benefits preferences, and worked with Tarpey Group to compile the best benefits packages your budget will allow. Your systems are loaded, the carriers have provided all of the documentation, and you’re just about ready to announce the new program to your employees. Consider these practical tips for making the most of marketing your benefits programs to your key employees and their families.
- Review your workforce demographics and benefits usage to get a better understanding of your employees’ stages in the lifecycle. Knowing your audience and targeting benefits communications to meet those lifecycle needs makes the benefits more personal and relevant. Employees with young families, older workers preparing for retirement, empty nesters, and young singles all have distinctly different benefits needs and interests.
- Package your benefits by target group and promote messaging that speaks to that group’s needs while consistently reinforcing the overall benefits strategy and employer branding in your messaging. Different communications delivery systems may also be important to different employee groups.
- Messaging should start with “why” the benefits are structured as they are and “what” the company’s overall benefits strategy is designed to accomplish for employees. Your employees are smart, so don’t sugarcoat any bad news about changes in your benefits program. Your best employees will see through the slick messaging and resent those attempts to hide changes that may be perceived as negative. This is a good time to highlight the important value of your benefits programs, promote wellness, encourage retirement savings, and incent cost-effective usage of benefits programs.
- Keep the messaging simple. Provide clear information, checklists, and decision support tools that are easy to follow. While the details behind a certain benefit may be fascinating to benefits specialists, it may cause some employees to set your carefully-crafted document aside. By all means, have the details available but keep the key messages and “what you need to do for enrollment” information central to your enrollment materials.
- Bring your managers and supervisors into the discussions prior to launch. Give them a heads up regarding the upcoming benefits changes and enlist their help in the process.
- Explain your benefits options in as many ways as your budget will allow. Multimedia messaging that provides different methods for employees and/or their families to watch videos or webinars, read detailed benefits materials, review infographics, use “hands-on” decision tools, view desktop dashboards or popup “did you know” benefits messages, read questions and answers or consider examples helps employees recognize the value of the benefit and make better benefits decisions. Determine your campaign for repeating key messages and the frequency of those communications.
- Next, tackle the “how” of your benefits communications program, including:
- a) Communications delivery methods. Electronic communications? Webinars? In-person company meetings? Packages mailed to home addresses to involve the family? Use of social media? Intranet messaging? Frequent emails or instant messaging? Live hotline for questions and concerns? Combination of all of the methods?
- b) Enrollment methods. Online? Manual? Make it as administratively simple as you can for both employees and your benefits administration staff. Use electronic tools if your budget allows.
- c) Timing. Establish a timeline working backwards from the date that the information must be completed with the carriers and other benefits providers. Then work forward to deliver your program.
- d) Frequency. Employees need time to consider their options and allow the information to soak in. Consider employee prompts and reminders you would need to send and when you will send them to complete the enrollment process in a timely manner.
Keep in mind that your benefits program will only realize its investment potential if it is perceived as meeting the expectations and needs of your employees and their family members. The annual open enrollment communications opportunity is precious – employers can influence how employees see benefits or cost changes, motivate employees to change their health or savings habits, and let employees know that management is listening, considering their feedback valuable, and responding to their needs.