How News Corp. revamped its benefits communication

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After seeing its employees struggle with understanding — and engaging in — benefits, media company News Corp. decided to revamp one of the most important elements of its benefits communications: its website.

Ahead of open enrollment in 2017, the media company — which owns brands including The Wall Street Journal and New York Post decided to ditch its traditional consulting firm partnership and try something different. It wanted to develop a communications strategy that was easily accessible to the average, non-expert, employee. So with a little help from a design firm, News Corp. launched its own public-facing personalized benefits website.

“When you are finding that there’s frustration [with] things like engagement rates, you just have to say, ‘I can’t do this the same way again,’” says Marco Diaz, global head of benefits at News Corp. “If I want to change, I need to do something differently.”

The company's main goal? Make it easy for its 6,300 U.S. employees to find out about offerings.

Now, when employees enter the News Corp. website, they can select the subsidiary they work for from a drop down menu. Once they select the subsidiary, they have the option to choose what kind of benefits they want to review: healthcare, financial planning, exploring benefits, family benefits, legal and regulatory or company perks.

The company’s benefits team manages and updates the site, which includes everything from information on health insurance to relevant articles from vendors like Wellthy and MilkStork. It also leverages content from News Corp.-owned properties including The Wall Street Journal and Barron's. Diaz says the company wanted to make its benefits easy to understand and accessible for workers. It also wants to use it as a recruiting tool so future employees can get a sense of what the company offers, Diaz adds.

“The reason that benefits exist is really to attract and retain talent in an organization,” he says.

The company's website changes echoes a larger trend toward personalized benefits communication, industry experts say. Many employers are moving toward using custom- built benefits platforms and websites, says Pam Little, CEO of Blue Communications, an employee communications firm.

Little says most employers take a role in developing their benefits distribution platform, and there also is a push toward making benefits information public, like News Corp. does. For example, many employers are removing password protections on benefit sites because it makes it easier for spouses, domestic partners, or anyone else who may be included on an employee’s plan, to access the information.

“If you remove that password protection and that login requirement, it’s much easier to get those partners looped in on key messaging,” she says.

Not all employers, though, want their website to be available to everyone. Some companies make their public-facing benefits websites unfindable on search engines, meaning you need a direct link to access it, Little says. The company's site, however, is accessible via Google.

Little says that the News Corp. site is unique because it allows employees to view the differences in benefits for employees company-wide. Most custom sites just have generic information about benefits and may exclude the details, she adds.

“That’s not something we’re seeing as much,” she says.

On the site, for instance, employees at the company’s Dow Jones can see the benefits offered to workers at HarperCollins, another News Corp. subsidiary. Diaz says there may be some elements of each division’s benefits that are different and employees can compare them, he says.

“There is an element of courage that the company consciously took on because it would be very easy for people to compare and contrast, [and say] ‘What do I get versus somebody else?’” Diaz says. “We recognize that would be the case.”

News Corp. also has tailored benefits communications that link workers back to the website, Diaz says. For example, it sends out a monthly newsletter to workers that directs them to relevant content. In February, the company promoted a Valentine’s Day- themed newsletter with related benefits information like Perks at Work for discounted flowers and Grand Rounds for heart health, he says. News Corp. also has an Instagram account to help promote additional communication company-wide.

“The idea here is a link back to either our site content or our vendor partners who have posted to Instagram,” he says.

Not ‘one-size-fits-all’

Data on employee education finds that employers need to get better at talking about benefits.

A survey of 1,400 employees from consumer directed healthcare company Alegeus found that most don’t understand basic information about their health insurance. While 66% of respondents were confident they understood basic insurance terminology, only half could answer simple true or false questions about premiums and deductibles correctly.

Meanwhile, UnitedHealthcare found that while 77% of employees felt prepared for open enrollment, most spent less than three hours researching prospective health plans. Rebecca Madsen, chief consumer officer at UnitedHealthcare, told Employee Benefit News in September it’s advisable to contact employees through a wide variety of channels in order to make sure they are getting the information they need.

“It’s not a one-size-fits-all if you’re trying to reach your entire population,” she says.

Little says more employers are focusing on benefits communication, whereas that was not the case five or 10 years ago. She predicts more will begin to offer tailored communications for the employees moving forward.

“The future is just focused on just how you can personalize the experience for the user,” she says.

Diaz says that News Corp. will continue to focus on innovative ways to diversity its benefit communications. While its website provides a main platform, it also will continue to explore other ways to communicate to employees. Everyone has different preferences, he adds.

“We are demographically diverse,” he says. “Different people learn things in different ways.”

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Employee engagement Employee communications HR Technology Benefits technology