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Jennifer Benz August 1, 2016 3 min read

4 Mistakes Benefits Providers Make in Employee Communications

As a benefits administrator or provider, you share a common goal with your employer customers to boost participation and engagement in the benefits plans and programs they offer to employees. To do this, you’ve created a whole bunch of free communication materials about your products that can help employees engage in these benefits.

But more frequently than not—and for a variety of reasons—these communications don’t live up to expectations. To create impactful resources for your clients, avoid making these four common mistakes:

1. Your communications are product focused instead of employee focused.

Benefits are a tough nut to crack, even for the professionals among us. So, when you’re writing about them, focus on how the programs can benefit employees. Give people a reason to keep reading, and assume they’ll be looking first and foremost for the answer to, “What’s in it for me?”

Sure, you’ll want to convey the features of your program, but they should not be the centerpieces of your communications. Instead, focus on the convenience or financial support the program provides. Offer examples that illustrate how the program might be used—“people like me” scenarios are a great way to do this. You can also offer examples of how your program works with other employer-provided benefits to add value. For instance, if your program provides extended coverage in the event an employee or family member is hospitalized, provide an example of what this hospitalization might cost out of pocket, with and without your program. To create communications that are as valuable as the programs you offer, connect the dots, do the math, and focus on the people who use them.

2. Your communications carry your brand only.

Most employers offer a menu of benefits on a company-branded benefits website. The challenge for benefits communicators is to explain the value of these programs, how to use them correctly, and how they work together to support health and financial wellness. To do this, they unite the benefits under the company brand, and package the programs so employees recognize them as part of their total rewards.

When your communications carry only your brand, they stand apart and don’t align with an employer’s total rewards messaging. To better support your clients, create communications your clients can rebrand or co-brand so they can be easily packaged with other programs. By better aligning your programs with other benefits, employees are more likely to recognize the value, appreciate them, and use them correctly.

Keep your eye on the prize: Benefits that employees use are benefits that employees appreciate. Employers get the credit, and you have a happy client.

3. Your communications are long and dense.

You have about eight seconds to capture people’s attention before they move on to something else—which means your most important messages need to be front and center in any communications you create about your programs. When people choose their benefits, they have a lot of information to digest, and anything you can do to make it easier for them will be appreciated—and remembered. No one wants to wade through lengthy paragraphs of text to determine why they should select your programs or how to use them.

Take a page from the consumer marketing playbook and create punchy, eye-catching communications that are easy to understand and drive action.

4. You ask too much of employers.

Your clients are stretched to the limit designing and administering benefits programs. They don’t have time to focus on how to better communicate the value of the programs you offer. They’re looking to you for help—not more work.

You can support them by creating communications that engage people. Learn from mistakes 1–3 above, and make it easy for your clients to promote your programs. Create a playbook that shows them how to market your program, and a toolkit of easy-to-customize emails, posters, fact sheets, and other materials they can use to educate employees about your product. Not only will they thank you for making their job easier, but also they’ll be more likely to put you on their list of preferred vendors for next year!

As we move closer to enrollment season, it’s a good time to review your account management processes to be sure you’re not making any of the mistakes above. And if you are—there’s time to fix them. Download Strengthen Your Benefits Communication: How Using Marketing Techniques Drives Benefits Participation, Engagement, and Behavior Change, the white paper we developed in partnership with Virgin Pulse, to help create communications that will get the results you want.

Jennifer Benz

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.