How to Build a Benefits Content Calendar

How to Build a Benefits Content Calendar

A benefits content calendar helps you communicate to employees about their benefits. As a communicator, a content calendar also helps your sanity. This document organizes all the messages you want to deliver this year in a single place. This makes collaboration easier. You won’t struggle for ideas or skip important milestones.

A benefits content calendar is a great way to plan for the future. It’ll keep you on track to send information year round. You determine what employees need to know and when. Create messages that educate and involve employees in how to choose and use their benefits.

This is crucial, because you want employees to make smart decisions. The results of a recent study Maestro Health survey of 1,000 people found just 33% completely understand their health care coverage. You, as a communicator, bridge that gap between confusion and knowledge.

If you don’t already have a one, there are lots of ways to create this document quickly and easily. Here are some tips for building your benefits content calendar.

First, create a structure for your content calendar that works for your team. Spreadsheets are a simple yet efficient option. Or you can try a collaborative online program with more features, like Asana or Trello.

Think of each column header as a step to complete on the road to final delivery of your message.

Step 1: Topics

Take the time to create a list of the topics you want to cover. Next, match them to specific times of the year. For example, messages around how to use new benefits should be communicated early. By January, employees may forget about the benefits they signed up for in October. If you have grace periods for flexible spending accounts, add reminders when building your benefits content calendar to create messages about those March deadlines.

You can also tie the calendar to outside health and wellness events. May is healthy vision month, a great time to remind your employees how to use their vision benefit. If you offer a critical illness voluntary benefit that includes incentives for certain health screenings, add reminders to distribute information during the appropriate months. For instance, communications on the importance of mammograms are a good fit for breast cancer awareness month in October. Skin cancer screening reminders can go out in November, which is healthy skin month. If you struggle over what to write, consult your calendar.

Step 2: Channels and Audience

Choose your delivery methods wisely. Would the message be better received in an email? A desk drop flyer? An article on the intranet? Make sure you reach employees where are.

Who is the intended audience? Some communications are for everyone and some have specific niches. Determine which segment of your population you’d like to reach. Don’t forget about spouses, who, research has shown, play a significant role in benefits decisions.

Step 3: Delivery Dates and Responsible Parties

A benefits content calendar keeps you on track to know when to send certain messages. It also tracks who does what. Remember everyone who needs to touch the content. Does your graphic designer need to create images? Do insurance carriers need to review the language? Include all the steps in the workflow so no details are missed.

Include space for each responsible person to initial when they’ve completed their work. If don’t use a program that automatically alerts the team when a task is completed, ask people to send a notification email. Then the next person in the chain knows to start their task. Once the final person signals their approval, it’s time to publish.

Step 4: Track Performance

A calendar saves you from wondering, ‘Did we already promote this benefit?’ However, publishing is not the last step. When building your benefits content calendar, be sure to include a column for analytics. Track how different pieces performed. Partner with your carriers to obtain utilization data. See if there was an uptick in employee actions after they read certain messages.

If you didn’t get the desired results, add a note to your benefits content calendar to push out the message in another channel. Remember, employees have different communications preferences that affect how they process information.

Step 5: Repeat

Sprinkle important messages throughout the year. Once is often not enough, repetition is key. Psychologists refer to the mere-exposure effect. Repetition leads to familiarity and familiarity leads to preference. Hearing or reading pertinent information multiple times leads employees to make choices. And choice puts benefits control in their hands

It’s rare that employees will understand information on the first pass. They need to hear it and see it many times and in many different ways. In other words, when you start to get sick of the message, they’ve just started to get it.

Strong communicators understand the importance of to-do lists and deadlines and metrics. Your content calendar helps you organize all three. Stay on top of messages to create clear, focused communications that teach employees the value of their benefits.

 

 

 

Danielle Love

Written by Danielle Love

Danielle is a benefits communications specialist, working on behalf of clients to write, edit and design dynamic print and virtual communications. She also manages the Trion Communications blog, which highlights the practice’s diverse areas of expertise.

Trion Communications Danielle.Love@trion-mma.com

How to Encourage Improved Work-Life Balance for Your Employees

How to Encourage Improved Work-Life Balance for Your Employees

Work-life balance is not just a buzzword. It matters to both your employee’s mental and physical health and the well-being of your company. The National Institute of Occupational Health showed businesses lose over $300 billion each year from absenteeism and turnover caused by overwork.

Employees who achieve balance are more productive and loyal. One study from TINYpulse showed they were 10  percent more likely to stay with their employer.

The connection between communications and improved work-life balance for employees can be powerful. As the employer, you need to let them know that you care about them holistically. Trust us when we tell you, this is a message that will resonate. We see its impact every day in the work we do for our clients. Research also bears it out. A study from Robert Half shows 39 percent of respondents believe creating balance is the employer’s responsibility

So how can you get in on it? Create communications to encourage improved work-life balance. Show your investment in employees’ happiness and well-being. Use clear messaging that encourages employees to lead their best lives at home and work.

Ask Employees What They Need

So many of our clients insist they know how their employees think and feel on a particular issue. Yet, they’re often surprised by the results when we send out feedback surveys and conduct focus groups.

If you want to know how employees feel about work-life balance in your organization, ask them. Host a focus group or distribute a survey where people can share their thoughts in a confidential setting.

What you learn just may surprise you. A study done by Workplace Trends says 67 percent of human resources’ professionals think their employees have strong work-life balance. Only 45 percent of employees agree.

Ask what programs or resources could help them. How can your organization encourage improved work-life balance? Is it flexible schedules? Onsite wellness offerings, like a meditation class? Access to personal financial planning help? More voluntary benefits to increase peace of mind?

Be prepared to set expectations. Let employees know that their feedback is valuable. While you may not be able to act on everything they want, explain what you can put into place. Be transparent and send regular updates about your progress. Even if the news isn’t always good, share it. Employees think more positively about employers they can trust to tell the truth. They can spot deflection or sugar coating from a mile a way

Educate About Offerings

Create a communications campaign around underutilized programs and benefits that help employees achieve improved work-life balance. One example is your Employee Assistance Program (EAP). EAPs are great to help employees manage the daily issues of living, like time management.

Maintain conversations with employees year round, not just during Open Enrollment. Employees might be consumed by the “winter blues.” Show them how the EAP can be a resource for mental health issues.

If you offer a corporate discount program, send reminders as summer gets closer. Teach employees how to use the program to save on hotels, amusement parks and flights. Vacations are a great way to promote family bonding and leave your workers refreshed and renewed. In fact, one study by Alertness Solutions found reaction times went up by 40 percent after vacation. This means people perceive, process and respond to information quicker. Employees are more focused, which benefits your organization.

Share these messages through a variety of channels to connect with the audience in as many ways as possible. One employee might take action after reading an email. Another might be inspired by a poster in the break room. Make sure each channel includes What’s In It For Me? (which should be the focus of all your communications) Put the employees’ needs first, so you grab people’s attention and they keep reading

Share Work-Life Balance Stories

Communications to encourage improved work-life balance can take many forms. Don’t neglect the power of story! Show employees how their colleagues engage in work-life balance.

Collect stories and photos from willing participants who balance work with outside interests. Does someone volunteer weekly at an animal shelter? Maybe someone is training for her first marathon? Share their stories on the company intranet to help workers find colleagues with similar interests. They can connect with each other and build new, beneficial relationships.

Encourage front line managers to share their stories with their teams. They can seed conversations about ways to lead to lead healthy and balanced lives. If managers model work-life balance, employees will understand it’s important to take time for themselves.

By communicating with employees about improved work-life balance, you show your company supports their well-being. Urge staff to grow both inside and of their jobs. Their performance—and your bottom line—will benefit.

 

 

 

Danielle Love

Written by Danielle Love

Danielle is a benefits communications specialist, working on behalf of clients to write, edit and design dynamic print and virtual communications. She also manages the Trion Communications blog, which highlights the practice’s diverse areas of expertise.

Trion Communications Danielle.Love@trion-mma.com

How to Create Communications for Gen Z Employees

How to Create Communications for Gen Z Employees

The workforce is changing. Generation Z, those born 1996 and later, have begun to graduate college and enter the job market. If you haven’t already felt the influence of this generation at your company, you will soon.

It can be tricky to communicate across the now four generations that make up your employee base. Remember different groups have their own preferences to receive and process information. You’re probably most unfamiliar with the youngest cohort. Are you ready to create communications for Gen Z employees?

The Value of Face-to-Face Communications

First, some rather unexpected news. Even with their constant immersion in technology, Generation Z employees value in-person communications. Thirty-nine percent rated that method as the most effective way to reach them. In another survey, this generation ranked their at-work communication preferences as

  1. Face-to Face
  2. Text
  3. Email
  4. Phone.

Short, regular, one-on-one check-ins are vital to these employees. They want regular feedback from their managers. Yet, to be ready to communicate with Gen Z, you must be ready for two-way conversations. Fifty-one percent said leaders who listen to them help them do their best work.

They value face-to-face communications, but Gen Z has a shorter attention span than previous generations. It’s no wonder that the greatest share of Snapchat users are between ages 18-24. Bite-sized chunks of information are the way to reach this group. Meetings should be brief and more importantly, interactive, to hold the interest of these employees. Instead of a weekly, hour-long sit-down, try a daily ten-minute standing huddle. If your meetings are leaders talking at workers, you will lose their attention.

Smartphones All Day

Yes, Gen Z thrives on in-person conversations more than their Millennial predecessors. But, there is another way their communications preferences differ. These employees grew up as digital natives. They expect fast, effective technology. Each day, a member of Gen Z multi-tasks across five screens. Will your communications grab their attention on at least one of those devices? To create communications for Gen Z employees, you must develop a strong mobile strategy.

Smartphones are the device of choice for these employees. Previous generations may have viewed texts from the company as intrusive. Gen Z ranked them ahead of email as their preferred way to receive corporate information. Invest in a platform that lets you send texts to a large number of recipients. Ask yourself, what real-time information can we share via text? Gen Z estimates they only need five to ten minutes a day to understand relevant information from their company. Texts are a great medium to provide that instant knowledge.

This generation also values apps for employee communications. They don’t want to log onto an employee intranet, they want one-touch access on their phones. Managers can approve vacation requests, provide performance feedback, and share information on benefits through an app. Gen Z relies on technology. How can you use it to create communications for them and make sure key messages are heard?

Video Bridges the Gap

In the spirit of technology, it comes as no surprise that Gen Z thrives on video. Consider that YouTube is their most-used app. You don’t have to create the next viral sensation. You should use video to provide the real-time information this generation craves. Why not try video meetings instead of in-office meetings? It will keep remote workers engaged with the team.

Short videos are also a great way to educate Gen Z on benefits and other company policies. This cohort ranks videos as their preferred learning method. Apply that technology to onboard new hires, introduce new benefits and conduct other HR functions. But, remember to keep it snappy. The WIFFM or What’s in it for me of communications to should be brief and bold. Give them the essence of what they need, then let them be on their way.

Remember to be Inclusive

Keep in mind that effective workplace communications consider the needs of all employees. These suggestions to create communications for Gen Z employees should not be taken at the expense of other generations’ preferences. Well-rounded communications efforts insure the entire workforce receives and process information. Think of these as additional tools for your toolbox. With planning, your company can be ready to communicate across generations.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Danielle Love

Written by Danielle Love

Danielle is a benefits communications specialist, working on behalf of clients to write, edit and design dynamic print and virtual communications. She also manages the Trion Communications blog, which highlights the practice’s diverse areas of expertise.

Trion Communications Danielle.Love@trion-mma.com

Communicating with Employees About Your Improved Benefits for 2019

Communicating with Employees About Your Improved Benefits for 2019

Benefits are important to employees. Sometimes, they can be game changers if an employee stays with your company or leaves. Employee benefits are continually evolving. As we turn a new page in the calendar, are you ready to remain an employer of choice? You need a comprehensive and up-to-the-minute benefits package to keep current staff and attract talented new hires.

Adding to your benefits package is great. But, as the saying goes, if a tree falls in the forest and no one hears it, did it happen? Communicating about improved benefits is essential. Here are three predictions for employee benefits in 2019 and our tips for when and how to communicate them.

1. Benefits Customization

Why is it that we can customize our cars, houses, and vacations, but not our benefits? Good question. We can! The days of cookie cutter benefits are going away. In their place are improved benefits packages tailored to specific health and financial needs. Cafeteria plans give employees a set dollar amount to buy the benefits that best meet their needs. You need to show employees how to do it.

To communicate about benefits customization, target the right audience. You might start by surveying your employees on the benefits most useful to them. Respond to what you learn with clear, user-friendly communications that lead with the “What’s In It for Me?”

If employees receive the information relevant to their preferences, they will be more likely to pay attention. Consider that 73% of employees say customized benefits increase their loyalty. And 83% would take a 3% pay cut in exchange for better benefits choices.

It’s clear workers crave personalization. Employees in one study ranked paid parental leave, commuting cost reimbursement, and leave to care for elderly relatives as the top 3 personalized benefits they’d be most likely to choose. Hopping on trend would put you in good favor. It’s up to you to communicate about improved benefits to show employees how you meet their needs.

2. Rise of Telemedicine

More companies now provide this benefit. From 2014 to 2018, the percentage of mid-size and large employers offering telemedicine rose from 18% to 80%. Telemedicine is a financial win for employees, as copays are often less than a visit to an urgent care clinic.

It can reduce absenteeism and promote good health. According to one survey, 86% of workers would cancel a preventive care appointment due to work pressures. If employees could use telemedicine for some of those check-ups, they wouldn’t feel guilty about missing critical time in the office.

Telemedicine pays off only if employees use it. Communication plans should focus on education. Telemedicine can be intimidating, so create brief videos that walk employees through the process of using it. Cold and flu season would be a great time to send out communications that remind staff about the benefit. Employees with chronic conditions that require monitoring are one population that you could target with materials that promote telemedicine.

The number of workers who use telemedicine is relatively low. Just 20% of companies with the benefit have utilization rates of 8% or higher. Yet, satisfaction is high among telemedicine users. Sixty-two percent rated their experience as an 8, 9, or 10.

A clear communications plan to show employees the WIIFM of telemedicine is a great first step to increase participation. Communicate about this improved benefit to position yourself as an employer whom cares for employees’ well-being.

3. Student Loan Assistance

With the average student loan debt at more than $37,000, this financial burden weighs on your workforce. Employees are putting off retirement savings, home buying, and starting families because of their debt. Currently, about 23% of companies offer some form of student loan help. This improved benefit would make you an employer-of-choice, especially with Millennials and the upcoming Gen Z.

Communications about a student loan relief benefit should begin with the recruitment phrase. If your company has booths at university career fairs, create and distribute marketing collateral to attendees. Mention the benefit in job ads to attract potential employees. Include it in on-boarding communications for new hires who may have missed the message.

No matter how you chose to provide student loan relief, communicate the benefit early and often. Don’t neglect your current employees when you craft messages. 86% of workers would remain with their employer for 5 years if they got help with student loans.

The benefits you offer go a long way to make you an employer that talented employees gravitate towards. With unemployment rates low, we’re in a buyer’s market for jobs. But if you don’t communicate your offerings, current and potential employees won’t see you as an employer of choice. Create a plan to get the word out about your improved benefits and you’ll make 2019 a successful year.

 

 

 

Danielle Love

Written by Danielle Love

Danielle is a benefits communications specialist, working on behalf of clients to write, edit and design dynamic print and virtual communications. She also manages the Trion Communications blog, which highlights the practice’s diverse areas of expertise.

Trion Communications Danielle.Love@trion-mma.com

How Communications Help Retain the Best and Brightest Employees

How Communications Help Retain the Best and Brightest Employees

Employees want to feel valued. You want to keep your employees satisfied, engaged in their roles, and with your company for the long haul. According to a Gallup poll, employees who are engaged are 59% less likely to look for a new job in the next 12 months.

Consistent and helpful communications make employees feel a part of the team. Forty-eight percent rated transparent communication as something that makes them feel like they belong at work. Communications can help you retain the best and brightest employees if you meet their information needs. Here are some tips to help you do that.

Create Trust with Transparency

If you want employees who are invested in their jobs, you’ll need open and honest communication. We no longer live in an age where companies push out only self-serving information. To engage with employees, you need their trust and two-way communications build that trust.

What are employees’ concerns? What suggestions do they have to improve company culture? The best way to find out is to ask. Make sure to set the stage and the expectations appropriately. After all, you don’t want to invite feedback you’re not able to do anything about. Conduct focus groups where workers can talk in a safe and confidential setting. This will make them feel like their opinions count and engage them in any changes.

Make sure to act on employees’ comments. Send follow-up communications to let them know how they’ll be used and what you plan to do with the information. That way, they’ll feel like you take seriously. In turn, employees will put more trust in the messages you push out through other corporate communications.

You want to be transparent in your communications. Don’t sugar coat messages that may not resonate well with employees. This is another way to engender their trust. Be thoughtful and diplomatic, but honest. Transparency shows you trust your staff. Treat them with respect and they are more inclined to stay. Above board communications will improve your employee retention.

Take Their Pulse

Employees want to be heard. Learn what communications channels reach them most effectively. And, if you’re not sure, ask. Survey them on what they’d like to know and then give it to them. Use different media to meet them where they are. Keep in mind that you’ll likely have to create different communications strategies and tactics for different preferences and learning styles. Why create a desk drop flyer if Employee A throws it out? Why craft a well-worded email if Employee B deletes it? If you respect employee’s listening and learning styles, it shows you value them.

How you frame a message is just as important as how you deliver it. Be thoughtful about engaging employees from the outset. Make dry topics more interesting by putting the “What’s In It For Me” at the top. Since employees are individuals with their own needs and goals, they’ll be most engaged when you lead with what the message means for them.

Show employees you care about their input on content matters. Survey your workforce on what type of company news they want to hear. Maybe they are curious about what’s happening in another department. Maybe they want to know more about the broader industry. Take their pulse on communication needs and they will be more likely to pay attention.

Timing and Recognition Matter

With a well-thought out employee communications plan, you show you trust and value your staff. Employees want to know how their assignments help the company meet its goals. In fact, employees who feel their work doesn’t contribute to overall business goals are more likely to leave.

Communicate with workers outside of the annual performance review. Send a simple “you go!” email when someone completes a difficult project. Praise employees’ efforts and use messaging as a motivational tool to retain the best and brightest employees.

However, you must watch the frequency of your employee communications. Send too many and the most important messages risk getting lost in the shuffle. You don’t want workers to automatically tune out when another company announcement pops up in their in-box and interrupts their work flow.

Be strategic and stagger communications. Create a calendar for your messages for the upcoming year. Take into account periods with lots of vacation time and the busy season when employees are highly focused on their assignments. Use analytics to track open rates for emails and plan accordingly. If no one is reads messages on Monday mornings, it’s time to send on a new day.

Employees want to be heard and they want to receive messages that will help them do their jobs. Effective communications are one tool to help you retain the best and brightest.

 

 

 

 

 

Danielle Love

Written by Danielle Love

Danielle is a benefits communications specialist, working on behalf of clients to write, edit and design dynamic print and virtual communications. She also manages the Trion Communications blog, which highlights the practice’s diverse areas of expertise.

Trion Communications Danielle.Love@trion-mma.com