Every day I have opportunities to speak with strategic benefits leaders, consultants and customers. There is always a consistent theme to these conversations: People do not understand what benefits are available to them when they need them most. We live in an age where smart technology can suggest the next TV series to watch or your next online purchase, why can’t benefits information be delivered in the same way?
One of the top challenges facing today’s HR benefits leaders is communicating timely and specific information to employees regarding their benefits. How do they promote details about the company’s health and benefits programs and do it in a way that stands out to and engages their employees?
Breaking through the noise is easier said than done. Research shows that as many as 80 percent of employees do not pay attention to the information they receive about benefits. This happens for a variety of reasons: the details are confusing; recipients don’t find the material valuable or relevant, or they can’t access it easily.
It doesn’t matter how great a benefits program is if employees and their families don’t know or understand what is available to them. One in four Americans say choosing benefits is a “guessing game.” Only 47% say their employer is doing a good job educating them about how to use their benefits.
So, how can they reach their employees? Below are six suggestions for breaking through to their employees.
1. Personalize Benefits Communication and Guidance
The use of data, technology and human support to personalize the benefits experience, beginning with open enrollment is here. As a first step, HR experts should consider using a decision support tool that can present the best benefits plan options based on an individual’s healthcare needs, preferences and risk tolerance.
Digital engagement hubs put all of an employee’s benefits in one place but this only takes you so far. To increase engagement, you need human support and technology working together in order to target those who need help and fine-tune how you reach them, make it simple for employees to access experts who understand their needs, and guide each person to the right benefits for them.
2. Tactical and Timely Communication
When choosing the method of communication it’s important that information is conveyed to the appropriate employees, at a specific point in time and through multiple channels. By providing personalized and timely communication, HR experts can be sure they are not oversharing details and confusing employees, which could dissuade them from taking action. The communications should be coordinated across all benefit programs so they are clear and don’t conflict or overwhelm.
Working in tandem with personalized and timely information, people often need to receive information multiple times before they take any action. Each employee has a type or method of communication that works best for them. Repeating messages and announcements through a wide range of channels like all-staff meetings, webinars, newsletters, videos, Slack or the intranet allows HR benefits leaders to meet employees where they are.
3. Applying Employee Feedback
It’s imperative for HR departments to invite and apply employee feedback at every step. Benefits communication is a prime opportunity to share vital information with employees and build trust. Sharing the process and rationale behind benefits decisions helps strengthen relationships and retain top talent. Telling employees how their feedback is being utilized makes an impact on both benefits strategies and overall communication.
4. Share Your Stories
HR experts can bring their benefits to life by sharing stories. For example, if company volunteer days are on the horizon, plan to highlight employee activities through photos and videos. Or take an opportunity to profile employees who want to talk about their positive experience with benefits—how pet insurance helped them get life-saving treatment for their family dog, or how virtual care saved the day for a single working parent. In larger organizations, it might benefit employees to facilitate the creation of support groups where people can bond over similar healthcare journeys.
5. Measure and Report
Of course, the ultimate goal isn’t just to improve communication but to increase employee adoption and utilization of benefits. Employees who understand and appropriately utilize their benefits provide cost savings for themselves and in a positive return on investment for their company. Some of the most meaningful metrics an organization can track include utilization of benefits programs, employee engagement scores, voluntary turnover rate, absenteeism rates and year-over-year cost savings.
6. Communicate Clearly
Benefits are complex; it’s important to keep communications simple. Start only with the essential information: What do people need to know to take action? Then, provide links to more information if they want to dig deeper. Feature frequently asked questions with concise answers at the top of each communication. And finally, using active voice, omitting jargon and including a glossary as backup will continue to keep communication accessible to employees.
It’s also important to consider that often times decision-makers are not the employees themselves, but a family member that is making benefits decisions for the entire family. Remember to consider everyone who is utilizing benefits when communicating.
Communicating an entire company’s health and benefit opportunities to every employee might feel daunting. Implementing these communications strategies can help reach your employees in the right way at the right moment in time.
The views of the author of this article do not necessarily represent the views of Gradifi. We make no claims, promises or guarantees about the accuracy, completeness, or adequacy of the information contained here. Readers should consult their own attorneys or other tax or financial advisors to understand the tax, financial and legal consequences of any strategies mentioned in this article.