Most organizations know their people need actionable information to understand and use their benefits correctly. Still, very few companies have a communication plan for getting employees better engaged in their benefits. Why? We’ve found that the biggest impediment to more effective communication is resources—specifically, time, people, and money.
Ideally, every organization should have a budget allocated specifically for employee benefits communication. It should cover both the internal and external resources you need to support your optimal communication plan. How much you’ll need to spend depends on how aggressive your goals are, the size of your employee population, your internal team’s capabilities, and the communication infrastructure you already have in place. Organizations with a few thousand people or more can usually make a huge impact by dedicating less than 1% of the cost of benefits to communication.
That’s why Budget is key #9 of our ebook, Unlocking Successful Benefits Communication: A 10-Key Framework Every Organization Needs to Get Results. In Part III: Resources, we teach you when to invest, how to determine what to invest in, and, most importantly, how to build a case to your leadership team to get the budget you need.
In the fall of 2015, we were introduced to one of the country’s largest home care providers. This employer really cares about its employees, a large percentage of whom are hourly, low-wage earners.
Before coming to us, the company had used only internal resources to support enrollment communication. It offered an ACA-compliant health plan at a very low cost, but very few employees enrolled. As the ACA penalties increased, it became more important to leadership that these low-paid workers spend their hard-earned money on actual coverage, not IRS penalties. They realized that getting employees to take action would require a bigger investment in communication, and they needed help prioritizing where to direct those limited resources so they’d have the biggest impact.
The company already had a benefits website, but it was merely an information repository and wasn’t user-friendly—which made it difficult for employees to find information they needed. Content was static, complex, and not focused on employee needs. Yes, our client had been communicating about benefits every year but with information so detailed and dense that it was unlikely to inspire action.
So, we focused on maximizing resources in 2 ways: by refining existing channels to deliver more results, and by collaborating with the internal communications team, which then executed the improvements.
Here’s how that played out. We helped our client rearrange and rewrite existing website content, so employees could find what they needed and feel supported. The internal team, which managed the website, then implemented the changes.
To reach the company’s diverse workforce, we used several communications channels and created targeted messages that were directed at specific segments of the workforce, such as home health aides, nurses, and office staff. To promote open enrollment and clearly drive decisions, we also developed targeted online content and postcards for different employee populations. The goal of every piece was to be simple, clear, and drive action.
These modest changes to how our client delivered communication had a big impact. Enrollment in the minimum coverage plan increased by 77%, more than twice the goal of 30%. And enrollment in the high-deductible health plan (offered to salaried employees) increased by 26%, more than double the goal of 10%.
Building on the success of the first year, our efforts the following year focused on ensuring employees were registered with their medical plan carrier, so that they were supported year-round once they were enrolled in the plan.
In addition to exceeding our client’s benefits goals, our work over 2 years helped this company rank for the first time ever on the Glassdoor Best Places to Work list in 2018.
We helped our client first build a case for resources and then maximized the budget they secured. The campaign was a success and showed the company it could get results with a limited budget, because we focused on very specific actions. Here’s what we did:
Script the critical moves. Big problems don't always require big solutions. This campaign was successful largely because we simplified the actions employees needed to take and made it easy for them to see what they needed to do. By focusing on just 2 key improvements—making the website more user-friendly and matching the right communication channel to the right workers—we were able to use limited resources efficiently and effectively.
Show instead of tell. It’s one thing to explain how certain medical plans and services cost more, and it’s another to actually show it. We did the math for employees, simply illustrating how they would end up paying more with the mandated penalty than they would if they just enrolled in coverage.
Learn more about how to build and budget, and read other case studies like this in our ebook, Unlocking Successful Benefits Communication: A 10-Key Framework Every Organization Needs to Get Results. Budget is in Part III: Resources. Part I shows you how to build your benefits communication foundation, and you’ll learn to market your benefits like a pro in Part II.