Commentary: Innovation in employee benefits has enabled us to move away from a one-size-fits-all approach and accounts for individual needs. This is extremely valuable for employees and their dependents who have their own health and benefits needs that are not identical to other members in the organization.

However, this innovation has also created a host of new challenges for HR leaders. With hundreds of benefits vendors offering services and technology for biometric screenings, telemedicine, health coaching, smoking cessation programs, chronic disease prevention, financial wellness, cost transparency, and more, HR leaders are suddenly faced with unprecedented communications challenges. Offering benefits and health programs is one thing, but ensuring your employees are using the right benefits at the right time is another.

Also see: Workplace culture more important benefit than wellness

Here are three best practices for delivering clear and effective HR benefits communication.

1. Communicate in bite-sized pieces. A common mistake HR teams make is to deliver all benefits communication once a year, around the time of open enrollment. This can be overwhelming for employees who may not have the time, energy, or interest to tackle a mountain of benefits materials. The daunting amount of information means important benefits materials can end up in the trash, which benefits no one.

A more effective approach is to create ongoing opportunities for benefits education throughout the year. Having a one-stop-shop application for health benefits provides your employees with a hub to easily access all of their health benefits. Advanced health management platforms also provide automated CRM solutions to create a cohesive and automated communications program across email, print, and online channels throughout the year. Employees will not feel so overwhelmed or uninterested when they receive information in small pieces at a time. They will also absorb it better, which will help them make the right decisions to save costs for both employer and employee.

2. Make benefits relevant. No two employees are the same or have the same benefits needs. While a wide range of benefits options provides more room for personalization, it also makes it more difficult and time consuming for employees, who are not benefits experts, to figure out what programs they need. HR leaders can’t manually create employee profiles and match them to the relevant programs. Making benefits communication and delivery as relevant as possible requires technology to leverage employee demographic, health and activity data to offer the right benefits communication to the right employee at the right time.

Also see: Boosting wellness engagement requires new incentives

While benefits programs can be made more personalized with demographic data alone, a biometric screening program offers significant data points to deliver relevant health programs to target health risk reduction. It is encouraging to note that 55% of employers currently offer biometric screenings, often as part of a formal wellness incentive program. These screenings provide a rich dataset that can identify health risks and deliver targeted benefits communications based on risk profiles. Employee participation and progress should be tracked over time, so both employees and employers can understand and realize the full value of the programs. This all starts with making sure benefits communications and experiences are personalized.

3. Cater to distributed teams. Distributed workforces are on the rise. Thanks to the Internet and the explosion of communication technology, it is easier than ever for organizations of all sizes to have employees and teams spread out across the world. And according to Forrester, 63 million Americans (or 43% of the U.S. workforce), will work from home by 2016.

This means that all efforts to communicate HR benefits need to adapt to the global workforce. In-person informational sessions cannot only happen at headquarters and a few main locations, because that excludes a significant group of employees from participating. And the alternative should not be to send PDFs or offer webinars alone, because these tend to get ignored. A good health management platform leverages behavior science and direct marketing techniques to drive engagement across your entire employee population.

After spending so much time and effort to establish a world-class benefits program, don’t let it go to waste by failing to clearly communicate and educate about those programs. It is in everybody’s best interest – employees, HR teams, and leadership – when employees are well-informed.  

Adena DeMonte is a direct marketing expert with over 10 years of launching and promoting innovative B2C & B2B products. As head of marketing for Keas, a health management platform, she advises on communications strategy for plan sponsors, focusing on driving engagement in benefits and well-being programs.

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