I originally wrote this piece for the Q4intelligence blog. That was in 2010, not long after the Affordable Care Act passed. While much has changed in employee benefits in the past few years, these points ring truer than ever.
Why would a company invest creative energy in something as seemingly dry as benefits communication? It’s highly regulated. Often quite complex. And, it’s not typically the first thing most people think of when they want to brand their organization and build lasting employee relationships. Yet, benefits communication also has the most potential reward of any HR communication.
We are so grateful to work with incredible organizations that understand how investing in benefits communication improves their businesses. The results we create together are outstanding, yet most organizations continue to neglect communication and employee education. We wish everyone embraced these three truths about employee benefits communication.
In an industry filled with crazy administration requirements, a library of acronyms, and enough government regulation to bore you to tears, it’s easy to forget that benefits are actually about people—your employees and their families.
And, people care about their benefits—there are few things more important than health and financial security. This is the stuff that makes sure you live happily ever after, or not. In 2010, it was not an understatement to say that employees care about their benefits more than ever. Many people predicted that ACA would start to change the way that employees value health insurance. But our research, and many other data sources, show that employees remain attached to company-sponsored health benefits.
Companies have such an amazing and powerful role to play in their employees’ lives. When you do great things with your benefits programs, you are doing great things for your employees. This, in return, allows them to do great things for themselves—and your company. But you have to keep your communications focused on those people and on what matters to them—not on all the nitty-gritty processes.
When it comes to branding, benefits communication is often overlooked. But it can actually be one of the most powerful ways to brand your organization and amplify the employee value proposition—especially when you also communicate to families. How much would it mean to your organization if not only your employees were engaged and loyal, but their families loved your organization as well?
Libby Sartain (HR superstar, formerly of Southwest and Yahoo!) made a brilliant point about this on the Brand for Talent blog. When describing one of her first projects at Southwest, communicating a new flexible benefits plans, she wrote, “We quickly realized this could be a prime opportunity to deepen the sense of relationship between the business and its people.” She continues, “More than ever before, a company’s benefits program—what it contains and how it’s administered—is your chance to stand apart from the pack.”
It’s also another reason why you must keep communicating with employees, even when you don’t know everything. Employers who go the extra mile now for their employees will have the strongest employer brands later when the economy changes.
You may know the components of an effective benefits communication campaign—a branded website, print materials to drive employees there, in-person meetings, and using all the channels you can, including social media. But what makes them all work is how you put these components together, and how they support your goals. You can’t communicate effectively without a strategy to guide you, and you can’t know you’re successful unless you have measurable goals.
When you have those in place, you can accomplish great things—by helping your employees take the incremental steps that will help them plan better, and ultimately be healthier and happier. Whether trying to improve participation in preventive care screenings, moving people into high-deductible health plans, or changing financial behaviors, knowing where you’re headed will ensure you get there. And there is no better way to make your benefits programs—and your employer brand—more effective than by helping your employees to do the tangible things that make their lives better.
As you look to what’s ahead for your plans and the industry, I hope these principles help you think bigger.
Interested in seeing what’s possible? We’d love to help you take your communications to the next level. Contact us to set up a time to chat.
Jennifer Benz, SVP Communications Leader, has been on the leading edge of employee benefits for more than 20 years and is an influential voice in the employee benefits industry.