10 ways to communicate with employees about benefits
Washington — The U.S. Bureau of Labor estimates that employers spend $825 per employee per month on benefits. With that big investment, utilization of company perks is a must — but encouraging employees to take advantage of the offerings can be challenging for many benefit managers.
Speaking recently at MetLife’s 14th Annual Benefits Symposium, Jennifer Benz, CEO of employee benefits firm Benz Communications, dove into the steps employers can take to best engage workers in benefits and create a system of ongoing, constant communication.
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1. Create a strategy
If employers are going to put effort into communicating benefits, it’s important to know what they want to accomplish. “There is no point in communicating if you don’t know why you’re doing it,” she said.
Having a strategy and a mission will help employers define their goals, audiences and how they measure success, she said.
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2. Brand your message
Branding is not just stamping on a logo or incorporating corporate colors into messaging; it’s about using your brand for “all it’s worth” and creating an emotional connection with your employees, Benz said.
She points to tech company Lenovo and its “next level” communication, which incorporates its brand by using its resources to better engage its workforce in financial and healthcare benefits.
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3. Have a great website
What’s important to notice, Benz said, is there isn’t an “s” on the end of that word. What employees need is one single website, a place employees know they can go to get benefits information.
Creating a one-stop shop reduces the barrier to worker engagement and makes everything else you do to promote benefits easier and more successful, she said.
4. Get feedback
Getting employee feedback is so important, and it’s also relatively simple: employers can get feedback in small, unnoticeable ways, Benz said. For example, companies can do user testing to get input on campaigns. Additionally, benefit managers can use data from the website to see what workers are doing and how they’re interacting.
“What’s essential is you’re letting that employee voice inform your communication and how you design your programs,” she said.
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5. Keep it simple
Simplicity is key. “We have to do the work to make it really easy for employees to take action [with benefits],” she said. “It’s up to us to go that extra mile. This is where it takes the most work, but provides the biggest payoff.”
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6. Communicate year-round
The conversation has to be continuous and ongoing. “It has to be year-round,” she said. “You can’t pile everything on at open enrollment and expect people four months later to understand how to use a benefit at that given time.”
7. Target messaging
The workforce is becoming increasingly diverse; there isn’t a one-size-fits-all method. That’s why benefits communication has to be thoughtful and targeted. “Just sharing one message at a time isn’t as effective as it can be,” Benz said.
8. Think like an employee
Benefits managers should put themselves in employees’ shoes and think through the steps workers must take when it comes to enrolling and using benefits: Are there multiple systems to go into? Do they have to remember several passwords? Are things connected? And, importantly, are the things you say about benefits at new hire orientation the same thing they learn when enrollment comes around?
“All those inconsistencies can become a huge barrier to engagement,” Benz said.
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9. Set a budget
Regular and modern communication, through a number of mediums, takes time and resources, she said. Simply put, every organization should have a budget for benefit communications.
10. Work with partners
From internal partners, including corporate communications and a legal team, to outside partners, including administrators and vendors, benefits managers should make sure to work with a team that together can create the best result.
Having all these components in place is what creates employee engagement. “I’m not saying it’s easy to do this, or to do it all at once, but if you see areas of opportunity to make progress, you can plan to put these steps in place,” Benz said.
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