Benefit communicators agree that even the best benefits program, when poorly communicated (or not communicated at all!) has little value. Unfortunately, many employers spend millions on their benefit programs but fall short when it comes to educating their employees.
According to a 2014 report by Aflac1, only 9% of employees believe human resources has communicated benefits information effectively and 65% said their employers sent benefits-related information less than three times in a year. A survey by Benz Communications2 revealed that 64% of employers distribute information during open enrollment only.
No wonder employees are confused, choose the same benefits year after year, and rarely take advantage of valuable benefits such as flexible spending or health savings accounts. Your employees need to be aware of the benefits you offer—and understand how to use them—to appreciate their value. A MetLife study3 reports that 50% of US-based employees said benefits are the reason they will stay with their current employer.
5 Tips for Communicating Benefits
So while it makes sense to communicate effectively and often, for some organizations that’s easier said than done. Here are five tips to help you begin developing engaging communication materials, even if you have little time and no visible budget.
- Use carrier communication materials, including flyers, posters, emails and more, available on their public website. Many have free videos available on YouTube. You can use these formatted, professionally written pieces “as is” or borrow content for emails and enrollment guides (attribution required) to develop your own flyers and posters. Post them in breakrooms, rest rooms and entrances or consider desk drops. Email links to the videos or use them in benefit meetings.
- Don’t forget about carrier apps and cost calculators to provide instant access to plan and provider information and decision-making tools. iTunes and Google Play feature hundreds of free apps, including iTriage, WebMD, Health News and more.
- Access info from organizations such as the Centers for Disease Control, the American Cancer Society or the National Coalition on Business Health (which offers robust employee communication materials) to boost your benefits and wellness education.
- Take advantage of free and highly effective group and one-on-one meetings with employees. A simple PowerPoint presentation with a motivated presenter is an effective educational tool. Provide talking points to managers and supervisors so they can conduct mini-enrollment meetings with employees if that makes more sense for your organization.
- If your employees use email at work, you’re in luck. Stick to one topic and try to condense information into two to three paragraphs. If you can invest in a graphic format for your emails, that’s even better. Write active, action-oriented subject lines: Three steps you must take during open enrollment (which begins today).
Putting it all Together
Spend some time gathering information that relates to your employee population, and determining key messaging you want to share, actions you want to encourage, and the results you hope to achieve. Decide how you will share information with your employees (emails, intranet, print, mail, meetings) and then determine how you will cascade your communications materials throughout the year.
Remember that communicating beyond open enrollment is a more effective method of motivating employees to make better choices.
Creativity and a little planning can make a big difference in your ability to help your employees understand the complex world of benefits and how they can use them to their best advantage.