Get on the Right Track with a Benefits Communication Firm

Get on the Right Track with a Benefits Communication Firm

This is the second of a two-part series. Read the first installment here.

After reading part one, hopefully you understand the value of investing in employee benefits communications and how to create a budget. The good news is you don’t have to wing it or leave benefits communications to chance. You can get help with high level strategy and planning and with executing those plans. A benefits communication firm can put you on the right track.

Yes, a benefits communication firm can be more expensive than creating communications in-house or outsourcing to a general communications firm. The value is in the expertise. Benefits communicators understand the complexities of benefits. They also understand communication best practices and they know the most effective way to share your messages. Your benefits communication team can create customized solutions that match your unique goals to your budget.

Outsourcing Helps Your Team

It’s not surprising that many human resource professionals are challenged by how to invest their dollars for maximum impact. With limited internal resources, they’re looking to get the most bang for their buck. It makes sense, then, when it comes to benefits communications, they’d partner with specialists who know how to get the job done. These firms work with impact and efficiency because it’s what they do every single day.

There are so many reasons to outsource your benefits communications to proven experts. For one, they’re trained professionals in the area. For another, outsourcing frees your internal team to focus on other, equally important tasks and initiatives. All of which contributes to savings over the long run.

Here are 3 questions to ask when engaging with a benefits communication firm:

  1. Do they understand benefits? Can they work with your external vendors to convey messages appropriately? Will they use the right media mix and get you the most bang for your buck?
  2. Can they provide you comprehensive services? That includes collaboration with other providers and stakeholders, as well as your internal team. They should conduct a communications audit; develop an employee-listening program; develop and implement a branding program and identify an overall effective strategy. A benefits communication firm should execute that strategy with writing, research, design, measurement, production, translation and other services that yield results.
  3. Does their pricing align with your needs and expectation? Does the cost match the overall market for similar services? Are they willing to be transparent? Is everything a la carte, or are they willing to create packages? When you go into pricing conversations be realistic about what communications cost and the time and resources involved.

Get the Most from Partnership

Once you’ve engaged with a benefits communication firm, what can you expect? A worthy communications partner will conduct a thorough needs assessment. This allows you to work together to set tangible goals for internal communication. You’ll work together on strategies, tactics, messaging, media, measures, and a timeline for achieving them. They’ll help drive actionable communications that give your employees they information need to make good benefits choices year round. Then you can focus on other business.

Here are 3 tips for getting the most out of collaboration with a benefits communication firm:

  1. Know when you need help. For example, you may need help promoting Open Enrollment, a new Consumer Driven Health Plan, a wellness program, or a change to your health plans or processes as a result of merger or acquisition. These are all good opportunities to get messaging out to employees. Be honest about what you need and how much you have to spend.
  2. Don’t worry about “solving the problem.” Share as much information as you can with your partner about your challenge and your overall objective. You may be certain you need a specific piece [newsletter, video, mailing to home] to achieve your goal. But many times something entirely different would work best. Trust the benefits communication firm to figure out the best how to get you where you want to go.
  3. Spend time planning and reviewing materials. After all, you are the ultimate subject matter expert regarding your company and employees. You and your communications vendor are partners, working together to achieve the desired results.

Collaboration across internal and external teams is essential for success. A trusted partnership with outside experts can give your communications a fresh perspective that leads to actionable outcomes.

 

 

Written by Trion Interns

Trion Communications jill.diffendal@gmail.com

Why You Need to Invest in Benefits Communications

Why You Need to Invest in Benefits Communications

This is the first of a two-part series. Check back Wednesday for the second installment.

How well do you communicate with employees? Do you give them information to help them choose their benefits? What about using those benefits throughout the year? Do they understand cost-effective ways to get the quality services they need?

If you’ve answered “not well” or “no” to any of these questions—or you’re not sure—it might be time to rethink your benefits communications. How well employees understand and use their benefits dictates how well they view you as an employer.

 Communications Equals Perception

A survey by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) shows health benefits achieve strategic business goals. That includes attracting, retaining and engaging talent, and improving productivity, among others. Yet without investing in benefits communications, can your employees understand the benefits you offer?

According to the MetLife U.S. Employee Benefits Trends Survey, less than half of employees “strongly agree” benefits communications help them understand how much services cost. That uncertainty can make them think your company doesn’t have their best interests at heart.

When it comes to communicating effectively, the stakes are high. Forty percent of employees believe benefits communications are easy to understand. That leaves a lot of employees scratching their heads.

Employees aren’t the only ones struggling. You might relate to our clients, who wonder how to distribute messages in a way that supports workers and reaches them where they are (in the field, at home, at their cubicle, etc.).

Set Your Budget

It’s important to plan ahead. You need to create a dedicated budget for your employee benefits communications.  Thirty-eight percent of member organizations in the International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans have a specific benefits communication budget. Communications made up three to ten percent of the total spent on benefits. Only you can determine the size of your budget.

Once you decide how much to invest in benefits communications, consider your business goals. Is it educating employees during open enrollment? Is it introducing a new benefit? Is it increasing participation in voluntary benefits?

Think strategically about how to allocate money for optimal results. Will a printed and mailed-to-homes guide give you the best return on investment? Is investing in a social media strategy a smart bet? Would your employees be more receptive to educational videos?

Conduct a communications audit to examine what worked in the past. Create a simple survey of your employees to ask their communications preferences. Compare to actions. Did that email campaign lead to increased enrollment in critical illness insurance? Did more people use the EAP after receiving an informational postcard?  Don’t forget to rely on providers for help. Communication materials from carriers can stretch your budget and let you devote time and money to the programs that need an extra boost.

Yes, communication about employee benefits is an investment. But that investment is a smart financial decision that can positively impact your bottom line.

Written by Trion Interns

Trion Communications jill.diffendal@gmail.com