I hear from clients all the time who want to have great communications materials but think they can’t because of their budget. I recently worked with a multiemployer client who was struggling to make benefits information and commonly used forms accessible to members, because the fund office had to shut down during the pandemic. But with a relatively small investment from each fund, we created a simple benefits website that made a huge impact on its members.
For many small and midsize organizations, there just aren’t enough resources or budget to go around. But that doesn’t mean your benefits communications have to suffer.
There are simple things you can do to affect how your people engage with your benefits, and you don’t have to be a large organization with a big budget to implement them. Here’s what we recommend.
Sometimes less really is more. If you don’t know where to start, begin with basic communications materials that highlight key benefits in a simple format—clear, concise information about what you want people to know most and when and how to take action. For example, tip sheets and simple checklists tailored to an individual’s age and family situation can go a long way in helping folks use their plans all year long.
As we state in our 10 Keys to Successful Benefits Communication, investing in a strong foundation will always be your best investment. For those who want to dig a little deeper, make sure that plan information is accessible online, preferably on a website outside your firewall.
Even if your organization doesn’t have a recognizable brand or creative team, you need your people to recognize your benefits communications. It’s a good idea to follow your organization’s branding guidelines (if you have them) and to make sure your communications use your logo and have a consistent look and feel. Starting with a few solid templates that can easily be replicated can help you create recognition and establish trust that you can enhance and improve over time.
We’ve seen the most success when employees receive bite-size chunks of information throughout the year. This means providing short forms of communication, such as brief emails or updates from site managers before a shift, on a regular basis. Repetition helps you remind your people about what you offer and reiterate the value of your benefits. It also makes the call to action—what you want people to do—more manageable and less overwhelming, so they actually follow through and take the next step.
While there’s no one-size-fits-all, there are lots of different channels you can use—many of which you likely can already access within your organization. For example, when most organizations went virtual in 2020, a lot of employees started collaborating on platforms like Microsoft Teams. Adding a benefits channel on Teams (or whatever platform you are using) can be a way to reach people where they already are. Consider partnering with your internal communications teams, employee resource groups, managers, and other leaders who can help benefits teams spread the word.
We also encourage you to lean on your vendors. Your vendors—from administrators to wellness programs and other benefit providers—may have sample communications about their programs or products that you can use. They may even be willing to customize them for free. Often vendors and other partners have budgets that can be applied to communications. They may even hop on a call to help you articulate how their program works and how best to position it to participants. Our compilation of Segal Benz blog posts offers insight into how to work with your partners to support your communication goals.
And don’t forget, you can hire external experts to support your communications. This could be a specialized agency (like us!), an HR consulting or outsourcing firm’s communications practice, a broker who has a communications offering, or even freelancers—you have a lot of options when it comes to those who specialize in employee benefits communications. This is often the quickest path to results, because you will have a dedicated resource that can help you reach your goals.
Benefits communications often cost a small fraction of the overall cost of the benefits program itself. In our experience, better communication leads to higher engagement, which will help people live healthier lives, save more for retirement, and appreciate their employer or plan sponsor, because they better understand the full value of their benefits offering.
And when big changes are in the works—for the organization itself or its benefits—it’s even more important to invest effort and resources in communicating those changes ahead of time. It’s human nature to resist change, so whether you’re adding new benefits, introducing a new wellness strategy, or making changes to existing benefits, effective communications will be key to establishing trust and driving desired results. These investments in employee education will pay off in the long run.
Try not to get overwhelmed, and instead focus on what’s doable and achievable. Any communications you create now will go a long way in helping people make better decisions about their health, well-being, and finances.
We're proud to work with organizations that value their people. If you want to learn more, we’d love to talk.
Angela Purdum, VP Communications, draws on her extensive benefits and communications experience to create winning benefits communications strategies for her clients.