Another year has passed, and we have several new studies indicating that employees are unsatisfied with their benefit communications, and that employers overestimate their employees' satisfaction. Here are some ideas to help improve benefit communications programs.

  • Analyze employee demographics and design communications most likely to appeal to them. This will likely require separate programs targeted at different groups of employees.
  • Study how employees prefer to learn about benefits and communicate with their families. We need to keep our communications packages relevant. It's important not to overlook the role of eligible family members in this process. When they are left out, the employer loses.
  • Observe employees during enrollment meetings or benefit fairs to determine how they respond. It's vital to learn from the questions they ask.
  • Do not think of generations of employees in a stereotypical way. Don't assume millennials only want online or smartphone resources; many actually prefer to communicate with someone in person. Similarly, do not think boomers are unfamiliar with technology.
  • Make sure graphics used in communicating are as inclusive as possible. Focus on why benefit products are important and how they can be used, rather than what they are.
  • Appeal to all types of decision-makers. Some respond best to personal information while others want the facts.
  • Everyone wants the processes that support benefits to be easy to understand and use. Make sure the process is streamlined and then communicate it!
  • Keep in mind that education and benefits-related communications should be done on a year-round basis.
  • Continue communicating how to use benefits once they have purchased them.
  • Balance communications throughout the year between informing employees about benefits and asking them for input on when and how they use them.
  • Make sure employees understand how various benefit programs complement each other. For example, some employees might be confused by an employer's combination of paid time off, unpaid leave, short-term disability and long-term disability income protection products.
  • The ben admin system an employer chooses should act as a platform for communicating with employees. Make sure the system supports year-round promotion of wellness products, including EAPs, financial wellness, mindfulness, cybersecurity, and mental health services.
  • Track response during open enrollment. Focus on those who have enrolled: "78% of your coworkers have taken advantage of these important benefit plans." Some products offer benefits that commence immediately. This can provide a great opportunity for creative nudging.

Related: Leveraging benefits communication to improve employee satisfaction and retention

A good benefit communication package encourages employees and family members in both enrollment and utilization. Employers get the greatest value out of a year-round, planned communication cycle. As advisors and service providers, it's our role to help employers create the kind of communication and education package that will delight employees.

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