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The 10 Commandments of Benefits Communication

Effective benefits communication isn’t easy.  It’s challenging to get people to a) care b) listen c) understand the messages you’re trying to deliver.  

From our experiences with our clients, we put together this list of the 10 Commandments of
10 CommandmentsBenefits Communication.  Read on and comment below to let us know what you would add to this list!

1. Shun Pre-Packaged Solutions

There is no such thing as effective plug-and-play benefits communication.  You need to work with partners who understand your company, your unique employee population, and the challenges you face in getting your message across.  Companies invest thousands crafting marketing and advertising messages targeted at the public – so why should your employees get the canned benefits schpiel?

2. Jargon is a big no-no

Don’t assume everyone understands benefits lingo – even words that are commonplace to benefits professionals (like “deductible,” “co-pay” and “co-insurance”) can trip people up.  Speak in plain English as much as possible, and ask someone from another department to read it and repeat it in their own words to test if you’re getting your message across.  Your employees shouldn’t need a dictionary to interpret what you’re saying. 

3. If You Can’t Explain it in 5 Minutes, Try Try Again

We live in an era of information overload.  Make sure all messages are as short and sweet as possible to have the greatest impact.  Try delivering information in an FAQ or tip list format to get your message across fast.

When people receive your messages is important as well.  If you save everything you have to say until enrollment time, people will be overwhelmed and you’re guaranteed to have some degree of confusion.  The best practice is to communicate gradually year round, and if possible have information available online where people can access what they need at their leisure.

4. Focus on the Employee, Not the Benefit

It can be easy to get caught up explaining the “what” of your benefits package and forget to mention why the company is doing it in the first place.    Don’t forget to celebrate what your benefits are really about: your employees!  After all, they’re not benefits unless they’re actually beneficial to someone. 

[SIDE NOTE: Starting this year, employers are required to track the value of health benefits for each employee and report it on their W-2.  This may be an eye-opening number for many people to see…]

5. Align benefits communication with external communication

Your communications should be aimed at building your benefits brand, a.k.a. being known as a great place to work.   

While many equate "brand" with "marketing," a brand is really the gut feeling people have about your organization -- and this applies inside and outside of your company.  Talk to employees like they are your most important customers.  At the end of the day, your customers and your employees should have the same perception of who your company is and what it stands for.  

6. Filter Your Benefits Communication

Avoid communicating all of your benefits information in one big long meeting around enrollment time.  If you try to tackle everyone’s needs at once, you risk boring the pants off everybody.  Try holding shorter meetings hitting on interest-specific topics like “Basics for Singles,” “Having a Baby?,” or “Medical Leave” as an alternative to the longer mandatory meeting for everyone.

You’re also sitting on a mountain of data from enrollment – why not use it?  Target communications throughout the year based off of demographics and what benefits employees are using.  For example, you could send two very different messages to someone who’s maxing out their 401k contributions and someone else who has never taken advantage of the employer match.

7. Variety is the Spice of Benefits Communication

We have oodles of ways to communicate with our employees today.  There’s email, blogging, videos, podcasts, social wellness sites, newsletters…and the list goes on.  The best benefits communication plan will make use of at least several of these channels to reach the widest possible audience. 

8. Everyone Loves a Good Story

If you can find a willing volunteer to share a story about how they took advantage of your benefits offerings, it can put a human touch on your plan and serve as an important reminder to others.   One of our employees just saved $1,500 on an MRI by utilizing a cost comparison tool included in  plan design – and you can bet people listened when he shared that story!  Because it was candid and coming from someone new, it got people’s attention.

9. Recycle!

Recycling benefits and wellness communication materials is an underappreciated art.  It can make a huge difference for the HR professional charged with delivering these messages.  Putting a new face on an old message can save you time, and repetition helps drive your message home!

10. Help People Make Choices

During open enrollment, people only want to know one thing: which is the right plan for THEM.  Ideally your communications should help guide them to making that decision, not overwhelm them.  Rather than throw every possible piece of information at them, give examples and explain which offerings may be a fit for certain life scenarios.  If you have the funds to hire a benefits counselor, employees may really appreciate that extra help.

What would you add to this list?

There are only 10 Commandments, so we had to keep this list of benefits communications best practices brief.  What would you add to the list?  What other ingredients or qualities of good benefits communication are essential to success?

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Topics: Construction Transportation Manufacturing HR / Employee Benefits