While I was an undergraduate, I worked for a multinational coffee company that provided health insurance and 401(k) contributions to its employees. Give credit where it’s due—benefits are rare for baristas. But, when I received my enrollment packet in the mail, it was so full of legalese and numbers that I wasn’t sure where to start. I didn’t even know whom to ask for help, so I never enrolled.
It’s possible that enrolling would not have been the right financial decision for 20-year-old me. It’s also possible that enrolling would have saved me money! What’s the takeaway here? Having point people to address benefits questions can help you assuage your employees’ uncertainty about their benefits. The best outcome? People talking to each other about benefits and using the programs you offer in ways that improve their lives.
It’s not always easy for people to ask questions about their benefits. In these cases, benefits ambassadors—employees who promote the programs you offer—can be powerful parts of your benefits communication plan. When you’re trying to explain a complicated health platform, get people jazzed about a new benefit, or increase program participation, your own people are often the best way to get your message across. According to Nielsen, more than 90% of consumers trust peer referrals more than any other kind of advertising. Clearly, it can pay off to get people talking about their benefits!
Here are 3 ways benefits ambassadors can be a boon to your benefits communication strategy:
One of our clients, a health fund for unionized transportation workers, had an underused wellness program. Formal efforts to increase participation by asking people to talk about their benefits with each other hadn’t worked. Why? Because it wasn’t happening naturally.
Meanwhile, unbeknownst to the fund, this was already happening on an organic level. The union local’s president happened to speak with a young mechanic who had health issues. The employee absolutely loved the wellness program and, without any encouragement from leadership, had been engaging other union members about how the program addressed his specific health needs. Let’s be clear—leadership should still encourage their people to talk about their benefits! But ambassadors should draw from their own experience. People listen to people they relate to. Personal accounts from your employees are among the most effective ways of encouraging people to use their benefits.
Full disclosure: Our client’s program didn’t get popular overnight, but at the end of the day more employees knew their benefits can help them. If the point of benefits communication is to make benefits more visible and improve lives, that’s exactly what happened here.
It’s natural for people to react more genuinely to discussions among coworkers. That’s because they start from a place of trust. Break room conversations can be about benefits, too. If you make benefits ambassadors a part of your benefits communication toolbox, you’ll be using the camaraderie your people have with one another as a marketing vehicle. One caveat: Ambassadors are not for delivering bad news. If you have to scale back on benefits, for example, communicate directly, and make sure leadership is transparent about the changes. Benefits ambassadors should never feel pressure—real or imagined—to spin or misrepresent information.
Does your organization enroll online? Some of your employees might not feel tech-savvy. Do your people have to input personal data to enroll? A few might bristle at giving that stuff away without an explanation. In a process that’s so important to your people’s health and security, a living, breathing enrollment guide might be just what the doctor ordered. One public-sector client considered putting up flags in a cubicle-filled office, designating where to go for enrollment help. The best part of enlisting the support of benefits ambassadors? It’s another way you can keep benefits relevant to your people year-round, not just during open enrollment.
Here are a few tips to consider when recruiting benefits ambassadors for your organization:
We’re proud to work with organizations that value their people. If you want to learn more, we’d love to talk.
Chris Fielder, Staff Writer, has been with Segal Benz since 2019, working with private sector employers, public sector entities, and multiemployer trust funds.