The almighty “benefits package” is one of the chief reasons people work for an organization rather than themselves. Yet, remarkably, benefits are among the least understood aspects of the job — before, during and after employment. Is it because not enough time is devoted to explaining them? Or is it because the information we get from HR is — simply put — a big yawner?
The legalese, deductibles, cost-shares, and inhumane terms like “qualifying adult” make benefits communication tedious to read and hard to understand. Yet with better frequency, consistency and creativity, organizations can boost employee participation and understanding of their perks.
Recently I was asked to help a large, statewide organization find ways to improve outreach about their 401(k) financial plan. They had thousands of employees working across nearly a dozen locations, who had the choice of using two vendors for their 401(k) plan. Complicating the process was a long and cumbersome internal communications chain that meant messages didn’t always reach recipients when or how they should.
Below are five tips I gave them, plus two more for you.
1. Acknowledge confusion and concerns.
When the ranks are rumbling, tell members that you are aware and have heard their concerns. Tell them what you will be doing to respond, when and how they’ll receive that information going forward.
2. Stabilize the brand.
Ensure that all, if not most, communication has a consistent look, tone and “brand.” Multiple benefits vendors will want to push their product information as often as possible to employees — all with disparate looks and verbiage. Assign a creative team to sort through and reformat these pieces so that employees receive accurate and consistent information about the benefit programs at your organization. It also will give you control over how much an HR vendor can “up sell” employees.
3. Increase frequency of communication.
When confusion and frustration abound, provide more communication and more often about how to use the plan or make adjustments. Offer the latest advice regarding market changes, and share other options for self-education or guidance.
4. Issue communication directly to members.
Reduce the number of links in the communication chain, and communicate as directly as possible with employees. A liaison at each worksite or department can be helpful, but only if they use the uniform brand you’ve created in tip #2.
5. Use a recognizable email address
Since the majority of benefits alerts are sent via email, help recipients receive your communication by consistently using the same email address and template. That will visually identify the message as an important update from you.
6. Intercept your target audience in multiple ways and multiple places.
Think like a brand. Those who are advertising a product reach their target audience in multiple ways throughout the day. Consider using e-mail, direct mail, manager’s toolkits, break room or elevator posters and employee intranet “banner ads” to alert members to the important updates.
7. Get personal and have fun
It doesn’t have to be so dull. Look within your culture and carry that tone into employee benefit messages. You can creatively pull pop-culture references, or fun and colorful visuals into your communique as long as accuracy and brevity are never sacrificed. See examples here.
What is the most creative piece of HR communication that you’ve seen?