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Data Drives Decisions: Segmenting and Targeting Benefits Communication


Benefits Communication Master Class Series #4

Companies that make data-driven decisions perform up to 6% better than those that don’t. Rather than let vital employee information go to waste, use it to maximize benefits results. This Master Class session offers:

  • Insight into the varying types and complexity in data for use in benefits communication.
  • Proven methods for personalizing messages to employees and family members who need them most.
  • Data-mining techniques to put the employee info you already have to the most effective use.

This webinar was previously recorded. View the full transcript below.


Data Drives Decisions: Segmenting and Targeting Benefits Communication

Webinar Transcript:

Hello everyone. Thank you for joining us today. This is Data drives decisions: Segmentation & Targeting Benefits CommunicationI’m Jennifer Benz and I’m thrilled you’ve joined us today.

This is the fourth in our master class webinar series. We’ve been thrilled with the participation and I’m delighted that there’s such interest in the topics on how to make benefits communication more successful.

If you haven’t already, you can sign up for our final webinar: Beyond a Two-Week Window: 10 Ways to Make Annual Enrollment a Success in an Era of Healthcare Reform.

In addition, this webinar as well as the first three will be available to download and watch after the live event. Of course our final one will be available as soon as it’s finished.

Today we’ll do Q&A at the end of the session. You can type questions into the questions module at any time during the webinar. We’ll also continue the dialogue via our blog, the article published on LinkedIn, and all the other ways you can reach out to us.

Please give us your feedback and thoughts on the webinars. We really want to make these as valuable as possible and make sure you’re getting the most out of them. The presentations as well as the recordings will all be available after the webinar.

Let’s jump right in to why we’re here today.

As benefits managers, you have an incredibly diverse population to engage. Diverse in terms of age, family situations, and earnings. If you look at your employee population, you probably have people that range from low income to the highest levels of income with your executive population. And you’re trying to capture the attention of all of those folks and get them engaged in complicated and overwhelming stuff.

Everyone is exposed to an unreal amount of marketing everyday. Thousands of marketing messages come at us from every channel you can think of.

Those marketers are sophisticated and really smart. They’re using data in all kinds of ways to predict what you need, predict what you want, and they’re targeting products and services that didn’t even exist a few years ago. But—what you have—you have data that marketers would kill for. You have incredible data at your fingertips with your benefit plans, your employees, and the participation. You can use all of this to help people make good decisions and help your programs be successful.

That’s really why we’re today. We’re here to talk about how you can simply and easily use the data you have at your fingertips to help people make good decisions. Your employees are looking for you to help them with the most important things in their lives: their health and their financial security. It’s so important to remember that employers are one of the few trusted and reliable sources of that information.

This is why we love what we do so much. Employees need you. They need you more than ever before and you can take a more sophisticated approach to communicating with them to help them be successful and help your programs be successful.

Everything I’m going to talk about today is grounded in our three steps to success in benefits communication. This is our proven approach and what we recommend for all organizations regardless of size or industry. This is a topic of our first master class as well and we go into a lot of detail on that as well as our white paper.

At a high level, our approach is to:

  1. First get online. Make sure you have a benefits website that is outside of your company’s firewall and that you make that site easy to use and inviting and an enjoyable place to spend time.
  2. The second step is to engage with employees and their families year round; to really move from once a year communication that’s piled on at open enrollment to a truly year-round communication schedule where you’re engaging with folks all the time.
  3. Finally, our third step is to work smart: to use all of the free, low-cost resources and tools that are at your disposal to keep your communications going and give them an extra push.

What we’re going to really focus on today is the first two steps about making online communication as well as that ongoing communication more effective. And what we want to do with both of those is to make it easy for people to take action. We want push them down the path toward better decisions. We all know that inertia is one of the greatest forces we have to overcome with people making good health and financial decisions. By making things relevant and easy you can get people to take that next step. You can help them know what to do and make that very easy for them.

Let’s start with: What do you want to accomplish with your program? And it’s really critical that with any communication campaign you start with that fundamental of: what is your goal? What are you trying to do? And how does that connect with your overall benefit goals?

  • Do you want to introduce a new plan or program?
  • Do you want to help people maximize their retirement accounts?
  • Do you want to provide year-round support for consumer driven plans?
  • Do you want to engage people around life events?
  • Or do you want to correct mistakes or correct poor usage of programs (and we see a lot of that)?

Start with this: what are your goals? Chances are, you’re all thinking about how to get people more engaged in consumer driven plans and more engaged in their retirement. Both of those are perfect topics for segmented and targeted communication—we’ll go into lots of examples of that shortly.

Once you know what you want to accomplish and what your goal is—then we can look at how will the data help you get. Again—marketers would kill for the data that you have at your fingertips.

You have an enormous amount of information about individuals, their demographics, their salaries, where they live, their family status, and you have unbelievable information about them participating in your programs to date.

You can also gather employee feedback to round out the information you have at your fingertips—either through focus groups or surveys or message testing. If any of you have listened to the webinars so far you know that we are huge fans of focus groups—one of the most valuable ways that you can get an additional source of information and data to embed into your communication strategy.

Something else that is become more popular in the last few years is looking at consumer behavior data as well. Often this is called segmentation or attitudinal profiles or market research. There are companies like the Futures Company that offer this.

Using that to get a sense of the type of consumer preferences your employees have can help you refine your communications and marketing as well. All of these sources of data you can look at, you can look at them to understand where the opportunities are and how you can help push people to make better decisions in those key areas.

Let’s look at some of these key opportunities. This list could be a mile long. There are so many areas where people are making common mistakes with their benefit programs. You can look at what’s going on with the data to correct those mistakes.

  1. Are some people missing out on the full employer match? Whether it’s in the 401(k) or the health savings account (HSA)?
  2. Who’s enrolled in your high-deductible plan but are not contributing to their HSA?
  3. Or they’re not maximizing their HSA in any way?
  4. How many people are missing catch-up contributions in either their 401(k) or HSA?

When you’re launching something like an HSA, what does your 401(k) data tell you about the receptivity to that? This is something that’s an easily looked opportunity when you’re rolling out consumer driven plans. When you have a large population like many employers do where people are maxing out their 401(k) contributions, it’s an easy message to tell them about this additional tax savings in an HSA. But we’re not often connecting the dots across plans and across the different data sources with benefits.

Also, are some of your benefits more valuable to your employees based on their life stage or their family situation? This is especially important with work/life benefits, many programs that are under-used, under-valued; whether it’s your employee assistance program (EAP) or backup childcare. They often only appeal to a segment of employees, but they are embedded in communications that go to everyone and they’re a little line item somewhere that is easily overlooked.

How do you get a better understanding of which benefits fit people life stage and then help them know about those and start to use the program?

All of these opportunities give you a better insight as to what’s going on with your population and where you can help them make better decisions. Then you can use different forms of targeted communication to drive action. As I said, to nudge them down the path of making better decisions.

This is the way that we have outlined the different ways to do targeting and to do targeted messaging. We think this approach is a helpful construct for thinking about this, for planning and so forth but there are a lot of different names for these types of tools. And you’ll hear people talk about doing segmentation or doing segmented communication. You might hear about personalized worksheets or personalized statements. There are a lot of different labels for this type of work.

But we’re going to talk through is, starting at the top, targeted messaging; which is using all of this data to create a very thoughtful approach to the way you’re messaging and crafting your strategy without doing multiple versions of a piece.

There’s pseudo personalization, which is kind of like adding someone’s name onto a piece.

Versioning—you can create multiple versions of a piece or multiple versions of a campaign based on all this data. You can do personalized calculations with static messages or personalized calculations with variable messaging. And as we get down the list, the production becomes more complicated. The testing becomes more rigorous.

But all of these can be done with very little risk on the data if you’re planful and you work with the right vendors who know how to handle the data.

Let’s go through each one of these and I’ll show you some examples and some of the key things to think about.

The first one we’re going to talk about is targeted messaging. This approach is really creating one version of a campaign or think about one version of a piece that speaks to a slice of employees and dependents who are most likely to change or who need to take a specific action.

This is using all of the data at your fingertips to craft and hone in on a message that’s going to resonate with the population that’s most likely to engage. It is an intentional approach to say, “we’re going to talk to folks that need this the most or that are most likely to do something with what we’re providing even though we’re communicating to everyone.”

For this approach, the input—the data sources—could be:

  1. Demographics.
  2. It could be the segmentation analysis that we talked about.
  3. It could be personas that you create and personas are a very powerful tool for planning communication. They are like ideal or types of employees—you create a persona, give them a voice, give them their characteristics—the demographics that you know the types of people that you’re talking to—and can be very thoughtful about thinking about them and their needs in the communications process.
  4. You could do focus groups with the targeted population.
  5. You could also do message testing with a population who you’re really trying to target and really trying to engage


The output is messaging or imagery that is targeted to a specific population. That you know, you’ve done the homework, you’ve thought it through, you’ve used every piece of data you can to make the communication as relevant and meaningful for that group.

The considerations with this type of targeting are that it needs to work within the rest of the campaign. You need something that is consistent with the overall campaign that you are doing. And by its very nature a piece like this may not appeal to everyone, but you’ve intentionally created it to appeal to the population that matters the most.

The idea of everything being equally appealing to every single employee in your population is what often dumbs down benefits communication because you just simply can’t talk to everyone at once. Being thoughtful about who you want to reach the most, how you want to target them and how you want to get them to take action can often make your communication more relevant and more meaningful.

A few examples of that—these are three different organizations with their HSA launches. Similar needs, introducing a new plan, but very targeted, very specific language and imagery based on all of the things that we knew about that population. A very intentional, thoughtful approach to how you use very targeted sophisticated messaging to get people to take action.

We also see a lot of this in with people like these scenarios. Whether they’re on a website or they’re in a print piece—using those people like me to say “we know that we want this type of person to engage and we’re going to spell everything out for them.” That’s another very smart way to use targeted messaging.

The next one is pseudo-personalized messaging. This is really just a data trick. You can put someone’s name on almost any piece of communication that you create and it’s going to get them a little bit more of a trigger to read that or to pay attention to it or to open it. There are lots of ways to do this whether it’s in an email campaign or on a print piece. It requires less testing and fulfillment than some of the other more data driven approaches and it gives people a reason to pay attention. It also raises the expectation that other pieces can be personalized. Be conscientious about kind of where you’re using this in your suite of communication tactics.

Here are a couple of examples:

  • A simple email that goes to everybody but it has a name on it, or
  • An envelope that, instead of just saying “annual enrollment is coming soon,” says, “Brian, you have 2 weeks to pick your new health plan.”

Just a little bit of marketing oomph to kind of compete with all of those marketing messages that we see everyday that are personalized to us that are coming at us with our names and personal information on them.

The next one we’re going to talk about is versioning, both in print and online. And this is something that is probably our favorite of all of these tools to use. This is simply creating multiple versions of the piece so that you can get people what is most meaningful to them and not force them to wade through all of the other information that you are trying to communicate to everyone.

So in this case, you might have:

  • A plan or program participation as the data source.
  • Plan or program eligibility.
  • Their demographics.
  • Their job profile.

Lots of different data you can use as your input. What you’re going to create is multiple versions of a piece with different messages and maybe even different imagery. This approach—when you’re creating multiple versions of a postcard that’s going to everyone or multiple versions of a newsletter or of a brochure—definitely requires additional testing and fulfillment time. You have to make sure people are getting the piece that’s right for them. You need to carefully orchestrate the review process so that you get quality across the board but that you also make it easy on your team. It doesn’t have to be that much additional effort to create multiple different versions of a piece if you orchestrate the content, creation, and review process the right way.

What we often do is we’ll create the base content for what is going to be the same in all the pieces and create the version content separately. Make sure that they’re all perfect before they start to be put together in the actual print pieces. That saves time in the process, and it saves headaches. When you’re trying to look at 4-5 versions of a piece and not sure if an edit has been mapped over to all of them and so forth.

This approach absolutely gives someone something that is more valuable, more personalized, more relevant to them. It will raise expectations for the quality of future communications, but that is not necessarily a bad thing. This is a really effective approach and something that any organization can do.

What we see a lot of times is, companies have been doing this naturally without realizing it. You might have different populations that are eligible for different benefits and you’ve been creating an enrollment guide that is different for each one. But, the same organizations that have been doing that don’t necessarily use this approach for the more sophisticated pieces where you can really drive action, such as in these examples:

  • When you’re introducing a new health plan during enrollment, you can tell people, “Your health plan is going away, this is what’s changing.”
  • You can do something like this with a mailer of “this is the new plan that’s offered” and on this piece it was a 6-panel mailer. We had a different version of each plan they were enrolled in so they could see side-by-side how their current plan compares with the new one. Really smart ways to very simply give an individual something that’s more relevant to them and makes them do less work to figure it out.

There are lots of ways to do this with HSA messaging. If you listened in on our last Master Class, we talked all about the high-deductible plans and the complexity and best practices for getting people to engage with those.

HSA messaging is a perfect example of where you can use different targeted versions. So we know there are two kinds of key behaviors with HSA account holders:

  1. Some people use it like a spending account.
  2. Some people are really focused on saving for the future.

You can identify who is who looking at the HSA account data and you can probably identify who is who just by simple demographic and salary level—at least make some good assumptions.

For the spenders—for the folks that need that account and employer contribution just to cover their cost every year—you can talk to them about how to budget and save, how the company contributions help, talk about the free aspects of the plan like preventative care.

But for the savers—the people who can save long term and who can afford to just put money away in that account—you can really educate them about how sophisticated it is as a tax shelter, what the potential is for building that healthcare nest-egg and so forth. There are a lot of options for a very smart HSA as well as consumer driven plan language all around.

This is an example of a targeted mailer that went to folks based on three different statuses on their HSA. Whether they were not contributing at all, not contributing enough to get the match, or contributing to get the match but not contributing the maximum allowed each year.

It’s a very targeted, specific approach to giving people that nudge to the next step of behavior.

This works really well with wellness programs, too. This is an example of a piece we’ve produced that was versioned based on the health plan someone was enrolled in as well as the precise step they were at in the wellness program.

Helping—again—just give someone that extra nudge. This is the one next step you need to take rather than “this is all the information about the wellness program that you need to weed through and figure out how you fit in.”

The opportunities to do versioning and create those different slices of communication online are almost endless. You can use all of the same things you would do in print; use the work location, a health insurance carrier, even lifestyle to get people to a page that is just for them. We also often times connect print campaigns with online, targeted information to get people down the path to better decision-making.

The considerations here:

  1. Low risks with doing this type of version content.
  2. Minimal testing required when you’re making simple paths online.
  3. In some cases there are concerns about unique audience groups being able to see each other’s content. If different groups of employees are paying different rates for a plan for example. Sometimes there’s some sensitivity to that. You need to account for that but we almost always default to making information more accessible rather than less just so that you get people to engage and get them over those barriers of access and information.

Here’s an example of what that looks like:
We sent this postcard to employees’ homes with a simple message: “Summer is here, get moving and here’s where to go.” When they went to the website, they chose their health to go down a specific path that really focused them on exactly what they needed to do with the wellness program and exactly how to engage.

This piece generated a tremendous amount of web traffic as well as an additional bump in the wellness participation because it was focused on helping people take that next step. Much of benefits communication can be overwhelming when there’s too much information to go through. But if you can focus on getting people into a targeted path where you outline the next steps for them, it helps them make a better decision and get over that inertia that I mentioned earlier.

Another way to approach this that’s really effective is to use online channels for lifestyle-based content. We see on the homepage of this website, we have a little widget that talks about “matching your benefits to your life.” Whether that’s staying healthy, a new marriage, a new child, caring for family and then that pushes you to pages that are specifically tailored to that scenario and talk precisely to how the benefits align with that life stage.

In this case the page is taking care of your family, all the benefits outlined of how they can help. This type of approach gets you better engagement with that content.

We see this so often and when we do focus groups we hear so much that employees just want to know what makes sense for them. They want to know what they’re missing out on, they want to understand how the benefits work for them and their lives. Using an approach like this where you’re basically just reorganizing content based around that family scenario can be really effective to get people to engage.

The next two types of targeted communication I’m going to talk through are much more complicated from a production side. That is using personalized calculations either with static messaging or with variable messaging.

Personalized calculations are used in benefits a lot. It could be a personalized worksheet, it could be a total rewards statement. There are a lot of ways to imbed this into your communication campaigns in a very strategic, fun, and thoughtful way.

We’ll start with personalized calculations with static messaging. This essentially means that you’re crunching some data using the data sources—whether it’s age or salary or participation in a certain health plan or 401(k) balance—and you’re doing some number crunching to give people something that is really meaningful. Maybe that’s what they’re going to save on their health plan premium. Maybe it’s what their 401(k) is going to be worth on a monthly basis.

This approach is very high touch. Which, at times, can create privacy concerns and we absolutely hear from our clients that there’s sensitivity to sending too much personalized information home. You want to balance that if you have a population that is very sensitive to anything coming to them that’s personalized.

But there are clear opportunities to promote programs and to make things much more meaningful and to capture people’s attention. This type of approach absolutely requires the sophisticated data testing and sophisticated fulfillment requirements.

You need to make sure whether the print vendor or an online vendor can really manage the data and handle the data properly. It requires a lot more testing time and often we use something like this to push people to a tool or to push them to a modeler for deeper level of understanding.

If you’re going to do something that’s personalized, always think through how you can use a tool or a modeler to really embed that deeper level of understanding and really encourage action.

This is a fun example that we embedded into an HSA campaign last year. This is actually an infographic that we created for Adobe’s executives. We did these for a group of about a dozen or so executives to show them exactly how they would save on the health plan with the new HSA. This was a clever way to get them engaged in the plan, give them something that is really fun and interesting to look at and make them champions of the change. If you’ve listened to the other webinars you’ve heard the Adobe case study before, it’s on our website. This is part of the campaign that helped get 62% of employees to choose the HSA in the first year. Only one element of a very broad campaign but absolutely a fun and clever way to use personalized data with static messaging.

Let’s look at the next one, which is personalized calculations with variable messaging. This is a more sophisticated approach to creating a personalized piece. Again whether it’s print or online, we see this a lot in total rewards statements where based on people’s elections are getting nudges and prompts to do things differently with their benefits or take advantage on what they’re missing out on.

There are lots and lots of data sources that can input into this type of messaging. The output could be something like: a savings on the health care premium, wellness messaging based on their participation, catch up contributions based on age, really unlimited possibilities for what the output could be.

This one is very high touch, which again, can create privacy concerns. It’s a very good opportunity to promote individual recommendations and give more context for the way that the data is being displayed. A lot of testing, a lot of time needed to do the fulfillment and the calculations on this. It’s not to be done lightly but these pieces can be incredibly valuable as anyone knows who has done a total rewards statement with variable messaging or an online total rewards statement with variable messaging.

Let me show you a fun example of this approach. This was an enrollment kit insert that really asked the question: “Are you paying too much for medical coverage?” Promoting the high-deductible plan over the PPO. It was personalized with someone’s name right on the first line. All of the content on a page was the messages as well as the individual pieces of data were custom and customized for an individual’s salary level, the plan they were currently enrolled in, and what plans they were eligible for. Whether it was the HSA or the HSA and the health reimbursement account. It is a very sophisticated piece. This piece was actually done using Pitney Bowes’ own internal software tools. This was a product they own and sell in the marketplace. Being able to leverage their own internal tool for this was very successful and is a great example of how sophisticated and how smart a personalized piece like this can be.

Let’s talk through some common sense considerations with this then we will wrap up and go into questions. Please put any questions that you have into the questions module and we’ll get to them in just a few minutes.

Common sense considerations. Whenever you’re touching data, you need to be cautious with it and understand if all of the pertinent data is accurate, available, and up to date, and so forth. Then, you’re really capturing and thinking through all of the assumptions on how that data is used. A lot of thought needs to go into the way you’re using data. Even if it’s something as simple as slicing people by health plan. Are there any unknowns in there about how what types of data you’re accessing and how are you getting those leads? Anything that could trip up the final production process?

A lot of times people are very cautious about this because they’re concerned about the chances of using Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) data for this, but if you keep things at the plan participation level and the plan eligibility level, you can stay very far away from HIPAA concerns.

Make sure that your legal is comfortable with whatever you are doing but there’s a lot of data that you have at your fingertips and you can use for campaigns like this without getting into really murky waters of personal health information and so forth.

With the testing you need to really go through how will the variable text appear. There is an art and a science to doing personalized statements, making sure that they work really well and that every consideration has been thought through. Whether it’s the length of someone’s name, the length of the data field, and so forth.

How many additional rounds of review are you going to need to verify the messaging, to test the data sources, and so forth and to even test when you get on press or when you’re starting to produce something online?

The fulfillment process has to be very thoughtful and thorough with vendors who know what they’re doing and know how to handle the data and do the quality checks to make sure that people are getting the right pieces. Lots and lots of printers know how to do this. When you’re looking at web development, there are lots of best practices and standards. Make sure you have the vendors in place that know how to do this. It is really critical.

Getting started, it can be a bit overwhelming to look at all of the possibilities to how you do targeting and segmented communication but you can start very small and simple. Focus on the quick wins that don’t require a lot of new systems, don’t require a lot of sophistication with the data. Something like sending a different version of a postcard to folks based on the type of health plan they’re in or based on their wellness participation. It’s a way to start small with a quick win.

The other thing that we do very frequently is after folks have enrolled in a high deductible plan is send them a mailer that talks just about how their plan works and all of the nuance that they need to understand about that plan. It can be anything from very simple to very complex with a print piece. But getting that information to people’s homes—that says, “this is precisely what you need to know about the plan that you just enrolled in”—can be very powerful.

When it comes to crunching the data you can, of course, lean on your consultants and vendors to help you with this. Look at the different sources of data and where you can pull things together and make sense of everything. You can, of course, invest in the databases and software that do this. In many cases, your marketing organizations may have something available internally. This is often the case for doing target email campaigns or more sophisticated email campaigns. Often your marketing group will have something that they’re using either for customer communication or external marketing communication that you could leverage.
You can do it manually to start. When it comes to splitting mailing lists and so forth, if you’re not doing big campaigns, doing it manually is not necessarily overly time consuming and you can make sure you are using the data that you have and start with a simple approach.

Then if you’re interested in audience segmentation, many companies provide these services as I mentioned before. They are often called consumer behavior profiles or attitudinal behavior profiles. The Futures Company is one that has been doing this in the HR and benefits space for awhile. They have a partnership with Aon Hewitt and there are others. That is kind of the market research look at your employee population. It can be really insightful and really interesting and can also be a really great piece to argue for a more effective and a more sophisticated approach to communication. It really takes a thoughtful communication plan to get the most from data like that as well as the most from any of the other sources of data that you have at your fingertips.

Some final thoughts before we go to Q&A. When it comes to benefits communication, one size does not fit all. Unfortunately, we’re stuck communicating in a one size fits all framework too often. When you do targeting, it makes the communication immediately more effective because it’s more relevant and that is really what we want.

People are overwhelmed with advertising and marketing messages everyday as well as just having very busy, full days. Putting the additional investment in targeting communications to make them more relevant and meaningful and help make it easier for people to take the next action is a really worthwhile investment. With many of these approaches, particularly the targeting and the versioning that I talked about and the pseudo personalization—those first three—it’s a modest additional investment for a much greater return.

Let’s go to some Q&A. You can put any questions into the questions module. The slides will be available for download as well as the recording will be available online. It looks like we have lots of questions that have come in.

Q. If we don’t have a budget for versioning, is there any way to make a general communication feel like it’s segmented with certain messages?
A. Yes, absolutely. What you can do is kind of partition off a communication, even if it’s just one piece. For example, if you are talking about a health plan change, maybe you’re introducing a high-deductible plan; which of course everyone is looking at. If you can only send one version of a mailer home, instead of talking generically about the plan and about what it means, split that mailer up into different sections and say: “If you’re in the PPO plan, here are things to consider... if you’re in the HMO plan, here are things to consider... if you have a family you are covering, here’s what you need to know.” That type of approach - of creating different paths for people—can work in any print piece and any online piece. That is really the essence of the first category in targeting I talked about, of structuring a piece or structuring a campaign so that you’re talking to the people that are most likely to make a change. You can do that even with one version of a piece or one version of content online.

We also have done that in some really fun ways with retirement communication. When big retirement change is happening, we broken pieces up into different paths for people to self identify what level of investor they are. One campaign we had: “if you think your understanding is simple, follow this color... if you think you’re smart about the plan, follow this color... and if you think you know more about it than we do and you’re a savvy investor, then follow this color” throughout the piece. It gave people that very complex information broken down into ways that are more relevant for them.

Q. Any suggestions on how to create marketing materials when you don’t have a marketing department and no budget for outside help?
A. That is absolutely a challenge. I would suggest looking at some of the low-cost tools that you can leverage either from your broker or any of the vendors that you work with, any of the business groups on health, and just seeing what you can leverage at your fingertips. You don’t have to be overly sophisticated, especially if you’re small organization, if you can give people relevant, easy to use information. Things like a simple tip sheet that says: “5 benefits you’re missing out on...or 5 ways to use our benefits for your family.” Simple materials can really help make people understand the programs more and give them a different way to engage with it, even if they’re not elaborately produced or super sophisticated.

If you’re a larger organization, then absolutely lobby for a budget to get outside help. It’s a tiny portion of the overall cost of the programs themselves to do communication the right way. We see companies skimp on benefits communication far too often and that really erodes from the overall value on what’s being invested in the programs themselves.

Q. What strategies or tactics work to engage spouses in plan awareness and participation?
A. Engaging spouses is really critical, especially when you have a heavily male population. The spouses are often the decision makers. And often the ones that driving up your costs. Our approach with having benefits websites that are outside of the firewall is one of the best ways to engage spouses and family members because you’re giving them a user friendly helpful tool that they can access at any time; when they’re home, when they’re at the doctor's office, when they’re thinking through benefits decisions and so forth.

That is a really critical investment when you’re trying to engage spouses and family members. Also, sending materials to homes - even our most sophisticated technology clients—we still send print materials home to get to those spouses, to get them engaged, to push them to the websites that are online.
You can also invite spouses to webinar series or any sort of events that you’re hosting around your benefits. Give them ways to access resources and access that information. Talking about the benefit programs in terms of what is most relevant for the family and how can people get the most use out of it can be a really effective way to engage spouses as well.

Q. How can we, as an employer, identify who is a spender or saver for HSA communications?
A. Salary alone is not an indicator of each employee’s individual situation, that is absolutely true. What we see, if you look only at salary data, you see a one-sided view of an employee’s financial situation because you have no idea of what the salary data of their spouse could be but you can look at all of the data sources you have. Your HSA account holder data, the health plan participation, salary data, and so forth. Use that to see what data you have at your fingertips and whether you can make some assumptions about whether people are going to be more likely to need to spend their account or more likely to save in it.

You can also look at where the opportunities are just to nudge people into the next type of behavior with their account and look at it purely from how they’re using their HSA. If people are draining down their accounts each year and not contributing anything to it, you can give them a nudge that they can contribute a bit more and build up that account.

If they’re of the eligible age but are not making catch-up contributions, you can nudge them to do catch up contributions and so forth. You can look at someone who’s maybe not getting the employer match and maybe have that in the account. Depending on what data you have at your fingertips and the way your plan is structured, you can see where those opportunities are.

There are also—depending on the HSA vendor you work with—they may be very sophisticated with their data or they may be pretty rudimentary. If you’re heard some of the other webinars, I’ve mentioned UMB Healthcare Services, they’re one of our clients and a very sophisticated HSA administrator.

They work with their clients on understanding exactly what’s going with the HSA account holder data. How to get people—to nudge them along to better decision-making. All of the vendors and administrators are starting to get more sophisticated with the way they’re using data. If you’re trying to drive a specific behavior, you may be able to leverage what your vendors and administrators are already doing and the ways that they are starting to crunch the data across their whole population of account holders or across their whole population of companies. That, I think, is going to be really fascinating for us as we look into more sophisticated approaches to benefits communications and helping people make good financial decisions overall. I think as an industry we’ve been under-utilizing data greatly because there are so much at our fingertips. There are so many possibilities for what you can do.

It looks like we will wrap up a few minutes early today. Thank you all for attending and for participating. You’ll receive a survey after the webinar and please fill that out. Give us your feedback, give us your ideas for future topics.

Our next webinar is Beyond a two-week window: 10 Ways to Make Annual Enrollment a Success in an Era of Healthcare Reform. We are going to have some fun with that webinar. We’re going to share with you our 10 ways and our 10 tips and then hopefully get the attendees to share any of their insights as well. If you’re going to participate or have any ideas you want to share, please reach out and let us know. We’ll be sending out a note ahead of time so we can get the collective wisdom of all the attendees.

Thank you.