Two of the most critical functions of benefits communications are to educate and empower employees to choose benefits that suit their needs. The challenge is to present the right type and amount of information. You need to both hold their attention and ensure they have the information needed to make the best benefits-related decisions.
And yet, how do you know if you’ve done this effectively? For some employers the answer lies in crossed fingers and the measure of fewer calls to Human Resources. For others, it means you anticipate employee FAQs about benefits and proactively address them.
Never is this more critical than when you introduce a new benefit (e.g., plan design, product, service, etc.). Here are some things to include in your messaging to employees.
How Does This Benefit Work?
This seems simple but you’d be surprised at the number of benefits communications that lack a concise explanation of the benefit’s purpose. For example, if your company plans to offer a commuter benefit, make sure to explain in your employee FAQs what that benefit covers (i.e., public transportation and parking passes but not tolls or fuel costs).
Not sure if you’re getting your point across? Ask co-workers who are unfamiliar with benefits to read your explanation and summarize how they think the benefit works. Take this feedback and don’t be afraid to draft multiple revisions until the message is direct and clear.
How Much Does This Cost?
For some employees, this will always be the single most important FAQ about benefits. It isn’t always easy to answer, though. In the case of certain benefits, such as life insurance, the cost to the employee depends on a variety of factors (ie. age, health, desired level of coverage, etc.).
A good strategy is to be clear about whether a benefit is company-paid, a shared cost, or employee-paid. In the first case, spell out, “This benefit is provided by the company at no cost to you.” In the latter two cases, refer employees to additional documents or a decision-making tool that provide more specific cost information.
If you can’t immediately answer the cost question, make it easy for employees to find the information for themselves. Some of Trion’s clients use ALEX by Jellyvision benefits communication software to walk employees through their options and offer personalized recommendations. This is a helpful addition to your toolbox to answer common employee FAQs.
What Do I Need to Do?
A clear answer to this routine question prevents a frequently declared statement: “I didn’t know I was supposed to do that!” This is particularly important with open enrollment communications. Let employees know early and often if they need to take specific actions. Your communications shouldn’t be negative or threatening. But, it’s significant employees understand how their coverage could change if they do not participate in enrollment.
If employees have more questions that need detailed responses, resist the temptation to cram that information into your core message. A better option is to create a separate Frequently Asked Questions document. Put a call to action in your main communications to drive employees to that FAQ about benefits. Be proactive and you’ll take a big step toward reducing those panicked calls and emails from employees.
Employee communications videos are an increasingly viable and popular way to connect and engage with your staff. While you still may choose other methods for your internal communications (multiple channels are important to make sure your message is heard), adding video to your toolkit is a beneficial way to bring your communications to life. Video grabs employees’ attention faster than email, long presentations, large documents, or lengthy team meetings.
One major reason for the popularity of videos is that they are fast, interactive and entertaining ways to digest information. Data shared by YouTube shows that people watch one billion hours of video on the platform every day. Another benefit of video is analytics. Statistics give you the ability to see how many people viewed your employee communications videos, assess your video strategy, and adjust that strategy if needed.
Employee Communications Videos Connect With Younger Employees
Employee communications videos help you stay relevant in the changing workplace. Gen Z, people born after 1994, has started to graduate college and find jobs. This wave of new employees shows preference for video. A study by Awesomeness shows this generation watches an average of 68 videos each day.
It’s vital to make sure employee communications videos are mobile friendly, since Gen Z can’t remember a time before cell phones. Their preferred way to consume videos is on their phones. Make sure all your employees hear, understand and remember important internal messages by adding video your communications mix.
Short and Sweet Employee Communications Videos Win Attention
Being mindful of your video’s length is a proven way to ensure your message reaches the most viewers possible—and keep their attention. Wistia, a video hosting platform, looked at 564,710 videos and more than 1.3 billion plays to determine the relationship between video length and viewer engagement. What they discovered is viewer engagement is steady up to 2 minutes.
After that two minute mark, there is a significant drop off in viewers. This suggests short and sweet is the best policy. If your employee communications video needs to be longer, put the most important information within the first two minutes.
Adding video to your toolkit is another useful way to bring your employee communications to life. It’s a necessary tool for communications teams who want to ensure all employees receive and pay attention to important messages.
As summer wraps up, thoughts turn to open enrollment. Now, more than ever, you need effective benefits communications. But, what makes audiences step up and take notice? Communications that answer their pressing questions. Incorporate the 5 W’s into your messaging for a successful open enrollment.
Who is the target audience for your open enrollment communications? That’s easy, you might say. It’s my employees. And, you would be correct.
Yet, you may need to drill down even further. Effective communications sometimes requires you to target specific audience members. You can deliver information to people who are uniquely affected (targeting folks enrolled in a particular plan to let them know it’s going away). You can develop audience personas that allow you to segment people with shared characteristics into groups. These approaches further define your messaging and approach.
For example, do baby boomers know they can make additional contributions to their 401(K) plans? Do employees who take public transit to the office know they can set aside pre-tax money through a commuter reimbursement account? Do parents of pre-teens know the dental plan offers orthodontic coverage?
You get the point. Find the message that speaks to each demographic.
What is the most important thing you need to convey? This could be a universal message across employee groups (e.g., Open Enrollment is coming!) or it could vary based on population. Either way, identify the core messages you need employees to know so they can select the right plans and enroll successfully. Then, communicate, communicate, communicate.
For example, are you introducing a High Deductible Health Plan? If so, explain new concepts, like a health savings account and how employees can use it to their advantage.
Are premiums going up? Don’t be afraid to be transparent and show employees the true cost of their benefits. 41 percent of respondents to a recent poll did not know their contributions, employer contributions, and the cost of services make up the total cost of healthcare. Give employees tips for saving money. Show how they can use covered preventive screenings or tobacco-user discounts to their advantage.
Where do your employees go for information? Online? Their home mailboxes? The shared breakroom? All of the above? You need to provide communications that meet them at each of these places. That’s a 21st century best practice for a successful open enrollment.
Even in today’s digital world, there are people who favor a printed Guide (52 percent, according to a Jellyvision poll). Yet, many others will look elsewhere for the tips and tools they need to choose and use their benefits. Make information available both inside and outside firewalls, so spouses and other dependents can access it.
And don’t forget in-person meetings. Face-to-face communications will always be the most powerful way to share information. Create the time and space for employees to ask questions about their benefits. If you can, bring in representatives from your carriers so employees can learn from them, too.
When will you deliver your message? If you’re not being strategic about timing, you risk missing the boat. Too many people wait until the week before enrollment starts. That cuts it too close.
Instead, do a drip campaign two to three weeks in advance that tells employees enrollment is coming. Teach them how to prepare for it. Then, when the season is in full swing, send frequent reminders to employees to take action.
Create a marketing plan three months before open enrollment and draft communications two months before. Thoughtful collateral takes time to write and design. Outsourcing to a benefits communications firm, like Trion, can give your pieces that professional touch. And you’ll focus your energy on other necessities.
Why should your employees pay attention? Your communications need to give them a reason.
Resist the temptation to lead with what’s in it for the company. Instead, stay focused on what’s in it for the employees —or the “WIFFM.” Include a call to action in your communications. Make the next steps obvious.
Share employee success stories and testimonials that show how folks have made smart benefits choices. This not only makes benefits tangible, but promotes the idea that employees trust each other. They will use the stories as guideposts for making their own decisions.
Employees want help picking their benefits. Lay out the pros and cons of the choices available and how each works. That will help employees understand the benefits offered and make good choices. Ditch the jargon. Instead, use simple language. Write like you talk and be conversational. Benefits terms may be second nature to you, but, when it doubt, spell it out.
And the bonus question: How?
How do you know what employees want from the open enrollment process? Ask them! Poll your workforce on their preferred methods of communication. Ask if the frequency and timing of messages work for them? Do they feel rushed to make decisions because the timing is off? You will gain actionable insights by simply talking to your workforce
Of course, there is no such thing as a worry-free open enrollment. But if your communication strategy addresses these 5 “W’s”, you have a better chance of a successful open enrollment. Good luck!
Most of your younger employees don’t think that a life insurance policy applies to them. For the most part, they’re still healthy. For another, many haven’t yet married or had children, and see an investment in life insurance as a waste of money.
And yet, the truth is life insurance can be meaningful for everybody, no matter their age or stage of life. The challenge is to help them see how they can benefit from a life insurance policy when they’re not convinced they need it just yet.
That’s where effective communications come in. Use the right strategy and tactics to encourage younger employees to take a look at life insurance. Help them see its value and embrace that idea that it may not be as expensive or unnecessary as they think. To the contrary, buying a plan now may very well save them money down the road. Here are four tactics to get your younger employees to consider a life insurance policy.
1. Remind Them Insurance Protects Their Loved Ones In Case Of The Unexpected
While nobody ever wants an accident or injury to happen, the fact is it does at any age. That’s why your younger workers should consider a life insurance policy. It protects their family members from having to worry about paying for a costly funeral. If employees are aware of this huge expense it could sway them to buy a plan. Then they wouldn’t feel guilty about leaving those expenses up to someone else.
2. Convey That Plans Are Affordable
Let them know that you, as their employer, already offer them a basic life insurance policy. Show them the value of buying supplemental life insurance on top of it.
If your company doesn’t already offer it, think about adding supplemental life insurance to your voluntary benefits. Your employees will appreciate the convenience of one-stop shopping for benefits. Supplemental life insurance normally only costs healthy people in their twenties a couple pennies to the dollar per month. It is worth the investment to buy supplemental coverage, as it will not put a dent in their pockets.
3. Promote Now, Save Later
One of the easiest incentives for your younger employees to consider life insurance policies now is that they’re less expensive. Although they may not feel they need life insurance right now, they know they will need it later in their lives. This is a great selling point. Use side-by-side comparison charts and coverage examples in your communications to show them the value of buying when they’re young.
4. Show Them the Stakes
Most younger employees don’t consider the stakes involved in not having life insurance coverage. The risk of disease and death is lower for the young and healthy, but the unexpected can happen. And if it did, how would their loved ones fare? Employees need to understand life insurance offers them and their families’ important protection. Their families won’t go into debt paying for their care or funeral expenses.
Younger employees should consider other expenses too. If a parent co-signed on a private student loan, they would be responsible for the balance. That can be a hefty sum.
Employers should communicate to younger employees that life insurance is indeed for everyone. Help them see the wisdom of buying a life insurance policy at an earlier age. It is an important way for employers to help their people stay healthy—physically, mentally, and financially.
There are many ways to communicate information to employees. Some are more successful than others, when you know your employees’ communications preferences and what works in your organization. If you haven’t tried it already, research tells us the value of video and audio. Content distributed through video and audio (like podcasts) is one of the most powerful ways to ensure your message sticks with your audience.
In fact, research says people process visuals 60,000 times faster than plain text. The value of video and audio for employee communications is endless; some ways include interaction, repetitiveness, and savings.
Value of Interactivity
Have you ever noticed people can become distracted while you’re giving a regular PowerPoint presentation? They check their phones, stare out the window or worse yet, nod off a bit. That’s a sign there may be better ways to get your message across. It starts with a robust mix of communications tactics, like print, presentations, and especially, audio and video. In the digital world we live in, more and more people recognize the value of audio and video to get their information.
At Trion, we use the cloud-based technology, Brainshark, to create narrated and often animated video presentations in PowerPoint. These engage our clients’ employees around benefits and allow Human Resources teams to create compelling and interesting presentations. This approach has been extremely successful because of the robust functionality and interactivity of the platform.
Interactive videos keep employees engaged and alert, which helps to effectively communicate important information.
Value of Repetition
When you communicate important information to employees, you can do more than just hope that they’ll remember and comprehend it. You can repeat it – over and over again. Research shows repetition is one of the keys of effective communications.
Stats also show people comprehend illustrated text (or text with design) 83% more effectively than text alone. Sharing content through audio and video supports not only retention, but increases the likelihood information will be shared. Digital content can be passed along easily and quickly, again proving the value of video and audio for employee communications.
Value of Savings
By sending audio and video content to our clients, we help them save time and money. They don’t have to travel to different parts of the company to hold face-to-face meetings with employees. Instead, they can send that information through the computer, using cloud-based technology that doesn’t require any back-end technology on their part. Spouses and dependents outside of the company’s firewalls can access this information. Clients get analytics and other information about how employees consume the information.
Video and audio shows its value in employee communications because it gets straight to the point. This content helps you communicate clear, concise, and valuable information to your employees. Employees can re-watch digital presentations, like Brainshark, which eliminate confusion over core information.
Video and audio is a great add to your marketing/communications mix. It’s a necessary tool that can help your company engage and inform employees, while being mindful of the bottom line.
When you think of business communications, what comes to mind? A series of webinars? A communications strategy? Several pieces of marketing collateral? That’s fair, but more often than not, it’s something we all do several times a day without even thinking much about it: Writing an email.
Does an effective business email need as much time and attention as these other, more comprehensive projects? Good question!
Recently, my best friend, who would be first to declare that she’s “not a communicator,” asked me if 20 minutes is too long to spend writing an email. I’ll tell you what I told her: It depends on what you’re trying to achieve.
If your email confirms you’ve received somebody else’s message, yep, 20 minutes is too long. If you want to convey an important message that requires the recipient to open it from a full inbox, and give it the appropriate attention and action? Then, no way! Twenty minutes feels about the right time to write an effective business email.
Most people get about 122 emails a day. On average, we spend only 11.1 seconds reading each before we move on or hit delete. Your goal is to figure out how to compete in those crowded in-boxes. No easy feat, but these tips can help reduce the time you need to write effective business emails.
- Start with a meaningful subject line. Don’t call your email “Need by Thursday.” Instead, try something more descriptive like “Transition Project Timeline – Review by Thursday.” This highlights key content, the action the recipient needs to take, and the deadline. All this the recipient even opens your now, more effective business email.
- Strike the right balance in tone, content, and simplicity. Write simply (and politely, of course) and include just enough information so your recipient understands what’s needed. Otherwise, you may find yourself answering follow-up questions in subsequent emails. It’s tempting to wax poetic and/or include everything there is to know about a project or subject. But, remember this is an email, not the next great American novel. The purpose of an effective business email is to deliver a specific, action-oriented message. (Use the telephone if a subject requires a lengthy conversation.)
- Use paragraphs or lists There is nothing duller than opening up an email and seeing one big wall of text. Remember, we live in the digital age, where people scan information on line. 55 percent of emails are now read on mobile devices. Reading emails on those small screens can be tricky. So make it easy for folks: Break your text up into short paragraphs or lists. Use numbers instead of bullet points if you think there will be a need to refer to a specific item later.
- State a clear call to action. Does the recipient need to give feedback or just their approval to move forward? Be specific. Ambiguous requests may result in unnecessary work and/or delays.
- Skip the humor and be professional. Along those same lines, use proper punctuation and language. Save the emoticons, acronyms, and excessive punctuation for casual communications. The elements that make jokes work, such as good timing, delivery, and tone, do not carry through in an email. While you may be funny in person, your joke may be misconstrued in an email. Humor and effective business emails do not mix.
- Check before you send. Before you hit send, reread your email and check for any typos, grammar errors, and misspelling. You might even want to print it out as editing on paper can often reveal things missed on screen. Double check the names and dates. See if anything needs more clarity to make your business email more effective. Depending on the stakes involved (e.g., going to a senior leader, a sensitive message, etc.), consider having someone else take a look at it before you hit send. A fresh pair of eyes often catches mistakes that someone too close to the work may overlook.
Use these tips and you’ll reduce the time needed to write effective business emails.