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Laura Hensley March 23, 2021 4 min read

What We Learned About Benefits Communication During the Pandemic

Segal Benz was proud to participate in and sponsor The Conference Board’s annual Communicating Employee Benefits & Compensation Conference. Our practice leader, Jen Benz, was joined by a panel of three outstanding leaders: Andrea Costanzo, Sr. Benefits Program Manager at PayPal; Jackie Dawood, HR Analyst at Krispy Kreme; and Paul Mele, Global Head of Benefits at BlackRock. Together, the group discussed what a challenging and rewarding year it’s been to work in benefits communication and HR. And they shared a lot about what they’ve learned as a result of the global pandemic and what they expect to see in communications going forward. 

So in case you missed it, here are three key takeaways that may inspire your approach to your own benefits communications.

Focus on Well-Being

Holistic well-being has been a major focus for all three panelists since the beginning of the pandemic—and will continue to be through 2021. At Krispy Kreme, the goal is to continue to promote relevant benefits that address challenges employees are currently facing. For example, they recognized that an overwhelming number of individuals are struggling with their mental well-being. In direct response, they made enhancements to their EAP counseling sessions—and quickly communicated them to employees. As part of that effort, they’re currently running a 3-month EAP campaign focusing on a different topic each month: anxiety and depression, sticking to resolutions, and dealing with substance use and abuse. They’ve also updated their benefits microsite to host the campaign on the landing page, updated their EAP page, and crafted tip sheets for manager talking points.

For BlackRock, 2020 became less about reviewing or enhancing their benefits offering and more about connecting employees and their family members to well-being resources. They held a summer steps challenge, with the goal of building a culture of well-being and community during a time when most people were operating remotely. They also focused on mental health, which had already been planned, but took on greater significance because of COVID-19, and promoted how different programs supported mental health and well-being.

And at PayPal, with the amount of change employees endured in 2020, they made a strategic decision not to make changes to their health care coverage, including employee contributions. By doing so, annual enrollment communications focused on highlighting benefits already in place and new voluntary benefits offering extra protection during a time of uncertainty. 

Try New Channels

Not surprisingly, all three clients shifted to digital channels over the past year with a just-in-time emphasis for outreach. Additionally, they also embraced new ways of reaching people through managers and employee network groups.

BlackRock, for example, used a variety of digital pieces, including banners, screen savers, and infographics, to steer people to their benefits website. They leveraged employee networks, communities of interest, and other complementary channels to reinforce their messaging. They also used the power of employee stories and testimonials to help their communications resonate. Finally, they ensured their communications were globally consistent and inclusive.

Managers and peers also became an increasingly important way to reach people last year. Krispy Kreme focused heavily on supporting their leaders with simplified resources to guide new hires during their initial enrollment as well as during annual enrollment. They wanted each piece of collateral to have a direct call to action, meaning an employee would know where to go and what to do.

Krispy Kreme launched a benefits microsite that completely replaced the need for their printed benefits guide. The site can be accessed on a mobile phone or browser outside the Krispy Kreme firewall. By design, it’s turned into a tool that managers can refer to, an informational landing page for new hires to learn about their offerings, an important resource during annual enrollment, and a recruiting tool for potential candidates. The microsite was specifically designed to be simple to navigate with language that’s easy to understand. And it moved the company to a digital-first benefits communication strategy.

Because PayPal’s entire workforce was remote, they replaced their annual enrollment fairs with virtual “Ask Me Anything” sessions and HR training. They also leaned heavily on their website to showcase “What’s new and changing.” 

Strike the Right Tone

Hitting the right tone and conveying empathy has been a shift in approach for many of our clients, especially those who were typically very upbeat and humorous about benefits. 

BlackRock introduced a guiding principle with their benefits brand that coincided with the support that was needed during the pandemic: a commitment to helping employees. Everything they communicate conveys a tone that they sincerely want their people to thrive in all aspects of their lives. With the introduction of their new benefits brand, they also decided to take a more needs-based, storytelling approach to benefits, which centers on “What’s in it for me?” And as luck would have it, the new brand launched almost concurrently with COVID-19 and the shift to most of their people working from home.

All three organizations have also prioritized providing their people with bite-sized, easily digestible communications that focus on resources that can support families as well as emotional and financial well-being. 

And maybe most importantly, each organization has emphasized how HR can support them through these turbulent times.

Want to Learn More?

If you registered for The Conference Board's virtual event, you can access these additional resources:

Event website

Webinar replay

Virtual booth

Laura Hensley

Laura Hensley, Senior Writer and Editorial Manager, is an award-winning writer and advocate for the reader and works with some of our largest clients.