How to fix five common mistakes organizations make when communicating information about their benefits programs.
By Adena DeMonte
The effort to offer an attractive benefits program to retain talent while also reducing ever-increasing costs has lead HR to diversify their benefits vendors over the past decade. Organizations can find value in licensing best- of-breed providers for each benefit, but this also creates huge communication challenges. Leaders are saddled with the tricky task of clearly notifying employees of each benefit, and ensuring the tools and services are being properly utilized. This can result in five common missteps when communicating HR benefits, but there are several ways HR leaders can fix them.
- MISSTEP: Discussing benefits only during open enrollment. The human brain learns better in chunks. Research finds that absorbing small pieces of information at a time -and regularly reinforcing that information – is proven to improve retention. This can be applied to employee benefits communications. The most effective marketing plans involve frequent and relevant touches to each prospective user.
However, typically during open enrollment, employees are generally handed a large stack of papers with an overwhelming amount of information about their multitude of benefits. Chances are, the majority of workers are not going to carefully read through the entire stack and dive deeply into the comparative value of each benefit. Most of those materials will probably end up in the trash.
A smarter approach is to provide ongoing opportunities for benefits education throughout the year. Leverage health management applications and email communication to get the word out. Gamify the learning process by offering short quizzes that educate employees and their dependents on the value of the benefits they have. The key is to spread out and break down communications in order to allow employees to soak up the information over time. Then when open enrollment hits, they will be prepared to make the right decision easily.
- MISSTEP: Ongoing communications are limited and not coordinated. While it is important to deliver ongoing communication, frequency alone is not enough. Communication needs to be coordinated and consistent. This can be a challenge when specific vendors want to send messages to your employees all year long.
Uncoordinated communications from multiple vendors encourages employees to tune out. HR leaders should take extra steps to prevent communications from feeling random and sporadic. Set up a system so that vendor alerts go to HR managers, not employees.
Establish a strategy for ensuring that communications are received and read. By integrating your benefits communication into one customer relationship management (CRM) system and health management platform, employees will not be overloaded with constant emails and messaging, Instead, they are delivered the right benefits message at the right time.
- MISSTEP: Benefits aren’t relevant to individual employee needs and concerns. The trend toward more benefits choices is moving away from the one-size-fits- all mentality. Every employee has a unique set of needs, and the greater amount of choices, the greater likelihood that every employee will find benefits that meet their requests. However, more choice also puts a bigger burden on each employee to determine which benefits will be the most useful to them.
Offering a benefit is only as useful as the number of people who opt for that benefit. For instance, if an organization offers a diabetes prevention program,
but none of your employees that have a high risk for diabetes know about the program, the organization’s bottom line or employee health population will not improve. But today it is possible to use big data and predictive algorithms to create segmented employee profiles. Organizations can then target employees with personalized offers and information. Companies can leverage health management technology to ensure their employees find, understand, and select the most relevant benefits for their needs.
- MISSTEP: Not designed to engage remote offices and employees. Remote workforces are on the rise. According to Forrester, 43 percent of the U.S. workforce will work from home by 2016. Multinational companies also tend to have multiple offices around the country and the world. This growing, distributed workforce creates a number of challenges. For example, a standard lunch and learn to share benefits materials no longer works for everyone.
Having a one-stop-shop solution for every employee makes it possible to offer remote and dispersed workers the same experience delivered at headquarters. Focusing on creating engaging benefits communications and programs both in a web and mobile-friendly app, as well as via email, ensures that all employees are reached with information about their benefits and available health programs.
- MISSTEP: Benefits communications are not tied to outcomes or incentives. Many benefits today are designed to help employees and their dependents improve
a particular aspect of their health, such as smoking cessation programs or diabetes coaching. Screening is a core part of this process: 55 percent of employers currently offer biometric screenings as part of a wellness incentive program. This creates a rich dataset that can identify health risks and help deliver targeted benefits communications based on risk profiles.
Organizations need to address the gaps between the screening process and the programs in order to connect employees to the care they need. Health management technology enables the entire benefits communications and outcomes process to finally work as one cohesive program.
Providing employees with the information they need to easily select their benefits is a win-win. When employees are able to take advantage of relevant programs, their stress levels to go down. A MetLife survey revealed that 49 percent of employees agree workplace benefits reduced stress over unexpected health and financial issues. Empower employees with information to make the right benefits choices.
Adena DeMonte is senior director of marketing at Keas.