You may remember from our Inside Benefits Communication Survey that only 22% of employers reported that they currently document their communications strategy. It’s a crucial step in connecting benefits communication with overall benefits program and business goals. No matter what direction you intend to take your benefits this year, you must start with a plan. Here are four steps you can take in order to make your benefits communications plans succeed:
A communication effort cannot reach its full potential without documented goals. This can be as simple as identifying the top 3 to 5 goals each year. Top goals can include shifting enrollment out of your high-cost health plan, building awareness of new tools, increasing workers’ use of preventive care or increasing 401(k) savings.
You must also establish how you will measure your results. The easiest place to start is with data you already collect—like plan enrollment and participation or website visits, but you can also ask your health plans for aggregate data about your employees and their dependents. Measuring goals with data is simple to evaluate and also simple to determine progress. If you’re stumped on why you’re not making better progress, employees can help you see the barrier through surveys, social media or focus groups.
Who are you writing for? It’s not enough to label your audience “the employee.” You must know whether you’re writing for managers, who have very little time to read long articles, or warehouse workers, who may have limited access to the web. You should also know the challenges associated with your audience. Do you have a significant Spanish-speaking population? Have you considered bilingual content? You’re talking to multiple unique groups of people—or segments—whether you group them by demographics like salary, gender, age, role or family status or by their current behavior, like savers or non-savers.
Knowing your audience will help you shape your key messages, determine the right mix of media, and determine which messages need to be tweaked to be sure they reach each individual and help you reach your goals.
The days when employee communications centered around enrollment are over. Employees need to know about spring financial classes, summer wellness activities, fall flu shots and everything in between. That’s the only way they will get the most out of your benefits. And the only way you’ll really see a return on your investment in them!
By mapping out all your communications for the entire year, you’ll stay ahead of the curve and ensure you get the right messages out with the right timing.
Just as important as sticking with your plan is being open to changing it.
While not quite a living document, you should revisit your approach and determine what’s working and what’s not. It’s a no-brainer to do this at the end of a big project like enrollment. But when you take on a new project, like onboarding employees of an acquired company or communicating a small bonus pool, or the project assumptions change, like your budget didn’t get approved or you’re switching health plan vendors, it’s important to take a quick time-out. Are there any messages that might cross unintentionally? Do goals need to be revised given a shorter timeframe/less resources to deliver? You can refine it by updating your goals, changing your tactics and starting again. When your plan is flexible and well documented, executing your plan becomes so much easier.
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.