Get personal

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Employees crave knowledge from trusted sources throughpersonalized and customized communications. Developing the rightstrategy is key to ensuring benefits communication campaignsresonate with employees and boost their overall knowledge of thebenefits provided.

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If companies are looking to retain and attract the very besttalent, personalized benefits communications will help them standout from competitors. A successful campaign implementation requiresclear communication built around content that is customized to theemployee and delivered to them at the right time and place.

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This four-step plan will help your clients communicate like amarketer:

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1. Plan – Determine what types of communication make themost sense for employees. For example, millennials will read texts,but don't count on an email catching their attention.

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2. Inform – Get messaging heard by choosing a memorabletheme for your communications; use multiple communication methods;and keep your messaging clear, concise and consistent.

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3. Energize – Keep you message top of mind foremployees.

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4. Follow-up – One of the best communication plans isfollowing up. Finding out what went well, what needs improvement,and reviewing your plan will allow you to make adjustments whileit's fresh in your mind.

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Nancy Sansom, CMO, PlanSource

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Times have changed

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In my experiences as a licensed broker who works directly withHR team members daily, there are five things you can do to ensurethat your clients' communications strategy around open enrollmentis in-step with their business goals and the diverse needs of theirworkforce.

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Go digital! In addition to the in-person open enrollmentmeeting and prep sessions your clients' HR teams should havescheduled with employees, encourage them to post all their relatedbenefits documents, notices and changes online, where employees caneasily access them at any time of the day. Additionally, a goodonline enrollment solution should help employees make the bestdecisions, with help from decision-support tools and educationalresources, such as videos.

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Develop a list of commonly used health insurance words andFAQs. By giving employees the tools they need to understandtheir benefits, you will help your clients' HR teams improveoperational efficiency by cutting down on the amount of individualengagement required of them. It will also help them demonstratetheir commitment to educating employees and making sure they aregetting the most out of their benefits.

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Encourage clients to take credit for a portion of health carecosts their organization covers. This goes a long way indemonstrating to employees a company's commitment to their healthand financial security. In addition, employees are likely toappreciate the transparency in costs as they budget for theyear.

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Help employees do the math! HR teams should helpemployees consider the total financial picture in their benefitsplanning, which might include factoring in their prescription drugcosts for the year and considering ancillary coverage that mayoffset some of the long-term financial burden.

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Boost training efforts and highlight executive support.Help your clients develop the tools they need to do their job. Forexample, conduct a short webinar (30 minutes, plus a Q&Asession) that walks employees through their open enrollmentprocess. Record it and share a link via email, internal socialmedia or the client's company intranet. Also, be sure to highlightexecutive support around the company's benefits strategy andrelated communication efforts.

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Amy Christofis, director, client services, Connecture

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Prep work

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Before you can effectively educate someone else, you need tohave a full grasp of the topic. That's why it's necessary tocarefully consider an employer's complete benefits package andtheir goals before determining the best way to share thisinformation with employees.

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Preparation. Taking time to understand an employer'sbenefits offering and their goals is a part of the preparation thatgoes into effective benefits communication. But preparationshouldn't end there. It can be helpful to take the long-view andlay out a plan for what you want to share and how you are going toreach employees in the coming years.

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Offer a personal touch. There are many tools you can usefor benefits communication, but there is still no substitute forface-to-face meetings with a benefits expert. This is probablybecause the employee gets a much more personalized experience whenthey meet face-to-face. They can ask questions and understand howtheir benefits relate specifically to their situation. This helpsthem make the best possible decision for themselves and theirfamilies—and that's how you know the messaging is working.

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Dan Johnson, vice president of sales and marketing, TrustmarkVoluntary Benefit Solutions

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Don't stop

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Employees' needs are unmet when it comes to learning about theirbenefits. According to research from MetLife:

  • They can't navigate the benefits information they receive.

  • They don't have the time or energy to dig in.

  • They don't know who to turn to with questions.

  • And, when they don't understand their benefits, they assume theydon't need them.

This means that employers, in partnership with advisers andcarriers, have a big opportunity to boost engagement, productivityand loyalty. The following strategies can help you boost theperceived value of benefits.

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Streamline enrollment to help employees navigate. Byintegrating voluntary offerings into your existing benefits programand offering them alongside traditional benefits, you not onlydemonstrate your support for the benefit, but help to streamlineemployees' overall benefits experience.

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Create simplified, digestible information that's easy forbusy employees to understand. Consider adding a “Did You Know?”section on your benefits website or article on your companyintranet to post quick highlights about some of your voluntaryofferings.

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Provide personalized information aligned with life events tomake benefits more relevant. Meet employees where they are withpersonalized messages and materials reflecting life events or lifestages.

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Provide well-equipped resources for questions. Providethe opportunity for one-on-one consultations with benefitsenrollment representatives, employees' preferred resource forbenefits questions. If staffing is a concern, consider leveraging abenefits communications firm to assist.

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Don't stop communicating when open enrollment is over.One way to communicate regularly with employees about benefits itto leverage national events or recognition months. Anotheropportunity to continue the dialogue on benefits outside of openenrollment is through financial education workshops.

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Ingrid Tolentino, CEO, Hyatt Legal Plans, a MetLifecompany

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Be the expert

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Brokers can best serve customers by knowing the current marketlandscape well, speaking confidently about it and sharing thatknowledge with customers. Offer information on changes and trendsas well as your expertise and commentary to create value anddeliver insights to your clients. The ability to weed through andanalyze information in the context of market trends and customerneeds is where your expertise will shine.

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Online tools and technology can help brokers further demonstratetheir expertise. For example, a blog or engaging in social mediacan help attract prospects and deliver added value to existingcustomers. These tools are perfect avenues for sharing communityinformation, recognizing customer achievements, responding toquestions and more.

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Today's consumers expect a digital experience, but it's thebrokers who build relationships that will stand out in themarketplace. Relationship building continues to be the single-mostimportant factor in earning business.

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Rob Carnaroli, Vice President of Sales, Sutter HealthPlus

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Paul Wilson

Paul Wilson is the editor-in-chief of BenefitsPRO Magazine and BenefitsPRO.com. He has covered the insurance industry for more than a decade, including stints at Retirement Advisor Magazine and ProducersWeb.