In an earlier article, we highlighted the importance of communication when it comes to improving engagement and participation in employee benefits. In that article, we discussed the role that benefits-related communication can play in attracting new talent and retaining current employees. We also offered a few tips on how to handle this communication, such as keeping it short and simple and sending out notifications year-round. Here, we take a more in-depth look at the ways in which employers can maximize the effectiveness of their internal communications, helping employees to better understand the content of these communications and boosting morale and participation rates as a result.
- Keep Things Clear and Straightforward
This is a point that we touched on in our earlier article on the subject, but it’s worth revisiting. If a message is especially long and full of obscure terminology and legal jargon, it can be hard to engage with. Many employees may not bother to read it at all, or will skim it briefly and then forget about it. Either way, there is a good chance that they are not getting all of the information that they need, and they certainly aren’t going to get excited about it. When talking about your benefits program, keep things as short and simple as possible. Avoid confusing terminology wherever possible, and where it can’t be avoided, make sure that everything is clearly defined. Short messages written in plain English are more appealing to read and easier to understand, and this understanding is key for increasing engagement.
- Looks are Important
It may be what’s on the inside that counts, but when it comes to communication, many employees won’t bother to see what’s inside if the outside is unappealing. A basic, plain-text document, especially one that is on the longer side, is likely to be skimmed or skipped entirely. Team up with a designer and add some style to your internal communications, creating clean layouts with appealing graphics. Make sure that important information can be found at a glance, and end with a clear call to action, telling your employees what they should do next. And again, keep in mind that clarity and simplicity are paramount.
- Personalize Your Messages
Nobody likes receiving generic, one-size-fits-all messages. If a message does not feel like it is meant for you as an individual, it’s harder to connect with that message’s content, increasing the risk that that content will be skimmed over and forgotten. Obviously, it would be impractical for most employers to write an entirely new message for each and every employee, but you might try composing different communications for employees in different demographics, geographic locations, income levels, and so on. Always keep in mind who your target audience is, and tailor the content of your messages accordingly. This does require a bit more effort on your part, but it also means that you can create more personalized correspondence, with content that has been custom-tailored to address the needs and habits of specific groups of employees.
Personalization doesn’t have to be complicated, either. There are some surprisingly simple steps that one can take that will instantly transform an email’s tone. One of the simplest tricks is to make good use of the word “you”. This makes it feel less like an impersonal document and more like a conversation. Having the message address the employee by name is another quick and easy way to make that message’s content feel more personal.
- One-on-One Meetings are a Powerful Tool
Giving your benefit communications a more personal touch is an easy way to boost engagement, but a face-to-face discussion is even more powerful. In fact, research has shown one-on-one meetings to be the single most effective technique for educating employees about your benefits package. These meetings help your team feel more comfortable and knowledgeable about the benefits available to them and provide a great opportunity to ask questions, especially smaller questions that they may not have bothered with if they had only been sent an email. Surveys show that an overwhelming majority of employees find these meetings helpful, and implementing something like this could be a great way to demonstrate your willingness to go above and beyond for your employees. One-on-one discussions of benefits aren’t something that many employers do, but if you have the time and resources to make it happen, meetings like this may prove invaluable for boosting understanding and engagement with your organization’s benefits.
- Set Aside Some Reading Time
A large percentage of employees don’t understand their employer’s benefits program, and in today’s fast-paced world with so much else demanding their attention, many are not setting aside the time to properly educate themselves. Surveys have shown that the majority of employees spend an hour or less thinking about their benefits plan each year, and even less time familiarizing themselves with what kind of benefits their employer offers. Employers can combat this by setting aside some time specifically for employees to read up on their organization’s benefits package. Your employees will no longer feel like they’re wasting time that could be used for something else, giving them a chance to really get to know their benefits, and maybe even find some information that would otherwise have gone overlooked. Employees who understand their benefits feel more satisfied with their jobs, hold their employers in higher esteem, and are more likely to stay with the company for many months to come, making it well worth the effort.
- Give Each Benefit Time to Shine
Major medical coverage may be the cornerstone of your benefits program, but chances are you have at least one or two other benefits that they’d like to show off. The problem is that the “bigger” benefits often end up eclipsing many of their smaller counterparts, especially things like voluntary benefits, which are generally the least understood by employees. Voluntary benefits can provide great value to employers and employees alike, but employees are unlikely to engage with benefits that they know little about. Thus, it is important for employers to make sure that each of the benefits they offer gets some time to shine, allowing employees to better understand and appreciate the whole suite of benefits available to them rather than just the main players.
As mentioned in our earlier article on communication, it is best to keep the conversation about benefits going all year rather than dumping a massive amount of information on employees during open enrollment and never mentioning it again. This has multiple positive effects, including allowing for shorter, more accessible content, reminding employees of how much you have to offer, and giving them more time to fully process the information. Another great thing about this format is that it gives you time to give each benefit on your roster more personalized attention. Rather than letting voluntary benefits get buried amidst information on major medical and other big-name offerings, you can set aside an entire email to put a spotlight on one or two of them and show your employees just how valuable they are.
Improving your benefits-related communications can have positive effects for all involved. For an employer, it means increased engagement and a happy, loyal team. For employees, it means more informed healthcare decisions and the chance to find the best benefits for their needs and budget. Perhaps the best part is just how quickly and easily the changes discussed above can be implemented, and at very little cost to your organization. Keep these tips in mind when designing your internal communications for the coming year.