I’ve worked in employee benefits communications for almost a decade now. As a graphic designer and communications expert, I’ve seen and created my fair share of pieces. These include guides, newsletters, postcards, posters, narrated videos and more. Benefits are complex and the stakes are high, so I feel good about helping clients deliver meaningful and visually appealing materials.
Not everybody has the luxury to work with a professional communications services firm to design their campaigns. If you’re in a DIY situation, this blog post teaches best design practices to improve benefits communications.
Best practices show a thoughtfully constructed layout combined with well-crafted text results in better comprehension. So remember to spend some time on design as you prepare to talk about your company’s benefit programs.
Employees rely on you to educate them on new offerings, changes to their current plans, or any perks that may be available. Design is a strategy to grab their attention and make it easier to navigate complicated information.
Here are five best design practices to give your materials that visual edge.
1) Have a Focal Point
At first glance, your piece needs a visual focal point. In a newsletter, for example, use a catchy headline in a bold font to reel in your employees. If you’re introducing new cost-saving benefits this year, make them stand out with a headline that reads something like: “Guess What’s Coming in 2018? New Benefit Offerings to Help You Save Money!” A visually striking headline is one best design practice that will make your employees want to read more.
2) Use Quality Photography
Quality stock photography is another best design practice that improves benefits communications. Select photos that help personalize your messages. You could take it a step further and use photos of your own employees to communicate your company’s benefit offerings. Balance text with memorable images to spark employees’ attention and communicate in a visually pleasant way.
3) Pick a Color Scheme
Simplify your newsletter with a minimum of two to three colors. If your company has a specific color palette or branding guidelines, add some of those elements to create best design practices. This insures the “look and feel” is compliant.
A color scheme brings a sense of harmony and balance to the layout. If you want to direct your employees to take action on a specific task, you could apply your company logo color to a call-out box. This draws more attention to the eye and helps guide your employees to take action.
4)Use Enough White Space
Allow enough space in between paragraphs, columns, images and text boxes to help identify where content belongs. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve come across pamphlets or brochures where the text from one column ran into another. This is clearly not a best design practice! When text and imagery are spaced proportionately on a page, it makes it easier to read and understand the material.
5) Keep Your Fonts Simple
Just as the context you’re communicating is important, your font choice is just as crucial. I typically stick with two fonts, at a minimum. Too many different fonts make your newsletter feel cluttered and turns away readers.
A helpful way of incorporating good font usage in your newsletter is to use a typeface from a font family such as Arial or Franklin Gothic. This enables you to apply a bold, italic or semi-bold font from the same family and not go overboard with competing font choices. This best design practice will improve your benefits communications
These simple adjustments to your designs will win over your employees. They will stay engaged and interested in learning the value of their benefit programs.
One of my clients recently asked me to make sure that all of her written communications used either “email” or “e-mail.” All consistency of style had been lost in a flurry of internal stakeholders reviewing and editing multiple drafts, leaving a mishmash of “emails” and “e-mails” in their wake. My client really didn’t care if the hyphen was used or not; “…just pick one,” was her only direction. Easy enough, but now the challenge becomes to hyphenate or not to hyphenate.
My own preference, and I could argue it’s the correct one, is for the less conservative “email.” After all, the Associated Press Stylebook, the de facto style and usage guide for much of the news media, dropped the hyphen way back in 2011. Even the staid New York Times finally succumbed. Unlike my client though, I’ve found that many people stubbornly cling to those hyphens, as evidenced by the continued use of the archaic “co-pay” and “co-insurance”.
But why does it matter? After all, it’s not really wrong to use “e-mail”, or for that matter “co-pay”, it’s just out dated, right? True enough, but the thing is, somewhere, someone reading your communications will know the difference and to that person, you’ve lost some credibility. That’s why it’s so important to pay attention to the details when it comes to punctuation and style.
Language, like the benefits marketplace, is constantly evolving. With that said, consistently following current writing style guidelines is a hallmark of well-executed, professional communications that are sure to make the impression you want.
Of course, if you’re a busy HR manager like my client, you probably can’t spare the time to worry about hyphens and the like. Luckily, there are communicators like me for that!
Happy New Year! As my colleagues and I return back to work after the holidays, getting back into the swing of things can be quite challenging. To help ease the transition and set the stage for a successful year, we take these first couple of weeks to reflect on 2016, and plan for the year ahead.
Communication and collaboration is an essential part of this process. We think about what our goals are collectively for the business as a whole, for our team, and for our own individual personal and professional development.
In the spirit of setting us all up for success in the new year, I’d like to share some tips that I feel have contributed to the success of our team here at Trion.
I have never worked in an environment where colleagues hold so many meetings. At first, this was overwhelming – meeting constantly and discussing many topics which I did not fully understand.
But now I realize the significance of gathering in a conference room for an hour or two to discuss the week ahead. We can openly discuss upcoming projects or assignments, our progress and feedback, and suggest ways to be more efficient. It is extremely important that everyone is on the same page. This way everyone has a full understanding of what the team is working on.
There are a variety of projects we work on daily. Some may take anywhere from a day to a month, even a whole year, to complete. There are also ongoing assignments — those that are built into our routine and our marketing plans.
Additionally, we frequently receive requests that are outside of our plan of action. When they come in, we draw up a plan as to what is being requested, how it can be achieved and who will work on the project. This way, the work can be distributed evenly amongst the team. We can also take the initiative to own certain projects if we realize our team members are busy with other assignments.
Put it on the Calendar:
Our team is great about communication! We have a shared calendar, which every team member has access to, where we house all of our projects. These can be anything from email blasts to trade shows to meetings.
We place anything with a deadline in our calendar ‒ this way the entire team can see what we have coming up in the weeks/months ahead and who the project owner is. This is tremendously helpful to have on hand should any questions arise or someone needs assistance with a project.
Keep a Log:
This may be more of a personal task and coincides with our project plans and team calendar. Keeping track of all the assignments and projects I work on throughout the year is valuable. I create a spreadsheet with the name of the project, a brief description, the date I started and completed it, and what worked best or needs improvement.
This gives me a physical document to show to my boss and/or colleagues if needed, and comes in very handy during the annual performance review process. I can also use it as a tool to reflect upon everything I completed and achieved during the year, and look for ways to become more effective for the following year.
Best wishes for success in 2017!
In the blink of an eye, we find ourselves gearing up for another holiday season, welcoming a fresh start and a new year. Where does the time go? As 2016 comes to a close, we begin to think ahead to 2017 and what the new year may hold: career goals, travel adventures, home and family changes…
It’s difficult to ignore this season’s abundance of ad campaigns and news headlines centered around the topic of new year’s resolutions, which consequently leaves you feeling pressured to create that master list of ways you are going to better yourself (and your family, and your friends….and the whole world for that matter!) Assessing how you will actually check these things off your list is enough to make your head spin.
So, here’s a resolution to solve your conflict with resolutions (see what I did there?): be realistic. There are many benefits associated with the process of self-assessment and establishing goals to better one’s self, but do yourself a favor and be realistic. Use your new year’s resolutions as motivators – don’t let them become discouragers by asking yourself to tackle the issue of global warming in one weekend.
Here are a couple tips to help you generate a (realistic) resolution list for 2017.
Start small: Quality, not quantity. You don’t need a five-page list of goals and resolutions to set yourself up for a productive year. Keep it simple and begin by identifying a small task you’d like to complete that may contribute to a larger goal. You can piggyback off the first step throughout the year and before you know it, you’ll be on to bigger and better!
Don’t put all your eggs in one basket: I’m sure you’ve heard that before, but it’s worth saying again here. It’s a risk to invest all of your time, money or emotions into one thing, and while this can sometimes be rewarding, it also creates potential for a big letdown. As you consider your goals and resolutions for 2017, try to spread the wealth by focusing a bit of attention on your personal life, another bit on your professional goals, and some on your health, environment and/or family life. And, of course, if you’re looking toward strengthening your communication strategy or improving your employees’ knowledge of benefits, check out the many ways our team at Trion can help!
Acknowledge your successes: Finally, as you’re gearing up for another year of health, happiness and productivity, be sure to take some time to reward yourself for all you’ve done this year. ‘Tis the season for holiday treats, so indulge in that cookie platter and carve out a little time for some well deserved R&R!
It’s finally over! I’m not talking about the presidential election, although I’m sure most of us are glad that’s over, too. No, I’m talking about Open Enrollment. My final client’s enrollment window opened this morning, which means all of the dozens of enrollment communications I’ve helped create for my clients are done.
That doesn’t mean, however, that my to-do list is blank. Far from it. My work now focuses on the “after” – that is, post-enrollment communications.
What does that look like? For some clients, it’s a video campaign slated for early January designed to help employees know what to do and expect when the new plan year begins. For others, it’s a wallet card listing vendor contact information so that employees can easily reach out to the right resource for help. We shape each client’s post-enrollment communications around who they are, what they offer, and what kind of support we believe their employees need most.
Whether you engage a vendor like the Trion Communications team, or you handle communications yourself, it’s a growing imperative in the benefits world to do something after enrollment season ends. Going silent the rest of the year is no longer the status quo. As I’ve said in a previous post, if you aren’t regularly supporting your employees in getting the most out of their benefits, you’re missing a huge opportunity.
So what should your post-enrollment communications focus on? These questions can help you get started:
Have you introduced a consumer-driven health plan or moved to total replacement CDHPs? CDHPs require knowledge and buy-in from employees. If you don’t tell employees what they need to know and support them in using the plan effectively, you risk setting them up for dissatisfaction, both with the plan and with you.
Have you changed, added or dropped any other plans or vendors? Have you added voluntary benefits like accident and critical illness insurance? Gotten rid of a popular PPO plan and pushed enrollment into a different type of plan? Changed vendors for dental or vision so that employees may need to find new in-network providers? Tell them what they need to know and do to use the new benefits successfully, and offer a place (intranet, benefits portal, enrollment site, etc.) where they can easily access information anytime they need it.
What were the most common questions you fielded from employees during Open Enrollment? If you got 20 inquiries from different employees about how much they can contribute to an HSA or how often they’re eligible for new glasses under the vision plan, you should take that as a sign. Your communications can be as simple as a list of FAQs that you post to the intranet, or you could turn it into a regular series of brief emails from HR, with each email providing the answer to one common question.
Do you offer benefits or programs that historically have low utilization/participation? Is engagement with your wellness program low? Does no one call the EAP? Do most employees not contribute up to your 401(k) match limit? Actively promoting what you offer year-round is a win-win for you and for your employees.
Need more help crafting a post-enrollment communication plan? Check out the client samples in our portfolio to give you some ideas, or feel free to give us a call to see how we can help!
Good-bye waistline, hello Open Enrollment – that’s how I felt at the start of the OE season.
If it isn’t difficult enough to try to lose a few pounds or maintain a healthy weight throughout the year, working in an office setting is ten times more challenging. Most of the time, however, I believe I do a good job making health-conscious decisions when it comes to meals and snacking. Purchasing healthy options at the grocery store is easy. It’s also not that tough for me to avoid the invite for sweets at the office; there is always a birthday or a reason to celebrate. But for the past month, I have been caving in to those dreadful OE carbohydrates.
Open Enrollment is our busiest time of year! My team told me these weeks/months will be chaotic, full of ups and downs, but we survive and come out shining in the end. The workload I can handle; the food, on the other hand, not so much.
During OE, we begin to experience stress, so our boss provides weekly bagels and pizza for comfort and happiness. Instead of feeling overwhelmed by pressure and anxiety, we relax and indulge in bagels and cream cheese. My favorite is the sesame seed bagel with honey almond cream cheese – yum! At least it is reduced fat, but that doesn’t stop me from loading more than the serving size on each half.
Every Tuesday, I tell myself, “You do not need to eat a bagel today, just stick with your yogurt for breakfast.” But when those carbs arrive, somehow I find myself rummaging through the bag looking for that sesame seed bagel. I do the same thing with pizza on Thursdays: “You don’t need pizza; you have this beautiful salad already prepared.”
I’m all about free food and appreciate my colleague’s generous offering every week, but enough is enough. I need to take back control!
There are a variety of ways to manage stress, like exercising or taking up a hobby. I know stress eating is not the best option (or the healthiest). But why do I continue to do it? Why do I cave in? There are many team members here that don’t even bat an eye at those carbs. It’s time for me to focus on helping myself. In the weeks ahead, I am going to work on maintaining my stress and well-being at work through:
Self control – Just because the food is free and sitting there, doesn’t mean I have to eat it. If I already ate breakfast and/or lunch, I don’t need to eat bagels.
Moderation – Allow myself to enjoy bagels or pizza once a month, as opposed to every week. If I forget breakfast or lunch one week, eat only a half a bagel or one slice of pizza.
Keeping busy – On those days where there is actually down time, a moment to relax, I should still occupy my time by finding new projects. If I keep moving, this will decrease my urge to eat.
Get up and move – Make it a priority to step away from my desk and go for a walk. Even if it’s just ten minutes to get outside and take a breather, it’s better than sitting all day.