Your group benefits packages are a significant investment in your employees. Properly designed, positioned and communicated, the benefits package 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 this year’s benefits renewal season, it is more important than ever to think strategically about employee communications strategies. Can you answer the five W’s (and How) for making the most of marketing your benefit programs to your employees?
Start with the “What”
What are your clients promoting? Your work building the best benefits package possible is the “what.” You analyzed your workforce, studied usage and costs, possibly surveyed your employees regarding their benefits preferences, considered various Department of Labor and the Affordable Care Act regulations and worked through longer-term benefit design issues with the impending 2018 Cadillac tax—to compile the best benefit packages your budgets will allow.
Make sure you provide clear information, checklists and decision-support tools that are easy to follow. While the details behind a certain benefit may be fascinating to benefit specialists, it may cause some employees to set that 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 the enrollment materials.
Move to the “Who”
Who will be listening? While your work is vital, the benefits package will not benefit your clients unless their employees use it. Knowing the audience and targeting benefit 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. Another aspect of “who” are managers and supervisors. Give them a heads-up regarding the upcoming benefit changes and enlist their help in the process.
Your group benefit packages are a significant investment in your employees. Properly designed, positioned and communicated, the benefit package is one of the best tools in your arsenal to attract the right talent, enhance employee engagement and retain their most valuable employees.
“Where” is Important
Where will you reach your employees? Promote messaging that speaks to your employee’s needs while consistently reinforcing the overall benefits strategy and employer branding in the messaging. Different communications delivery systems may also be important to different employee groups. 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 benefit decisions. Determine the campaign for repeating key messages and the frequency of those communications.
Now the “When”
When should you promote? This is a good time for you to highlight the important value of your benefit programs, promote wellness, encourage retirement savings and incentivize cost-effective usage of benefit programs. Your employees are smart, so don’t sugarcoat any bad news about changes in the benefits program. The best employees will see through the slick messaging and resent those attempts to hide changes that may be perceived as negative.
And Never Forget “How”
How will the plan be implemented? What are the enrollment methods? Online? Manual? Make it as administratively simple as possible for both employees and the benefits administration staff. Use electronic tools if the budget allows. Your benefit programs will only realize the investment potential if the benefits are perceived as meeting the expectations and needs of your employees and beneficiaries. 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.