Happy Spring! As we look ahead to warmer weather, is your company looking ahead to a mid-year open enrollment? Then it’s time to focus on ways to stop employee procrastination. A comprehensive communications strategy that uses these 4 “S’s” will ease employee stress in the coming months.
Set a Goal
Begin with the end in mind. What actions do you want employees to take this year? What problem would you like your enrollment communications to solve? Maybe you’d like workers to get a biometric screening? Maybe you’d like people to know you’ve switched dental carriers? Maybe you’d like employees to sign up for benefits through a new website?
Whether the news is big or small, find the reason your employees need to pay attention and stop procrastinating. That reason will be the focal point of interactions.
Spell it Out
What does this mean? Benefits communications is full of acronyms: FSA, HSA, HRA, HDHP, PPO, HMO, STD, LTD, FMLA, PCP and QLE. This alphabet soup is enough to make anyone lose their appetite!
Be careful if, how, and when you use these abbreviations or you risk losing employees’ attention. If they can’t grasp the concepts, then it’s easy for them to ignore the central message. That’s when employee procrastination kicks in.
Effective communications defines these must-know terms and uses them sparingly. Remember, not everyone is surrounded by benefits all day. Try to write as if you’re explaining them to your mom, your neighbor, or anyone outside the industry. State the most important facts in broad terms as early as possible.
Attention spans in this digital age are brief, so don’t bury the lead. Workers will want to know exactly what they need to do and when, so tell them ASAP.
Select the Ideal Reader
If you have different audiences with various plans and needs, you should target communications. The goal for a manger could be different from the goal for worker on the factory floor. Or, the goal for an employee in his first job out of college could be different from the goal for an executive looking ahead to her retirement. If you speak to workers’ specific needs, it makes it less likely they will ignore the message and start that pesky procrastination cycle.
Take a cue from the marketing industry and craft audience personas or profiles of your readers. Get into the minds of employees who will receive your enrollment communications. How can you best convey your messages to these different groups?
Don’t be afraid to try new delivery methods beyond the standard benefits newsletter or presentation uploaded to the intranet. Maybe your workers will respond to a postcard or flyer they can thumbtack in their cube as a visual cue. Maybe on-the-go workers and/or spouses will appreciate a video they can access from their smartphones.
Female spouses are key allies in your fight to end open enrollment procrastination. Women in America make 80 percent of their household’s healthcare decisions. Target them with at-home mailings and online content available 24/7 outside of the company firewall.
Schedule Message Delivery
Consistent communication is important to stop enrollment procrastination. Start communicating before the open enrollment period. Small reminders that enrollment is coming up will stop employee surprise.
Once the season begins, communications is not a one-and-done strategy. Pace the rollout of your messages. Well-timed reminders throughout open enrollment will keep everyone on track.
As much as you try to prevent employee procrastination around open enrollment, some workers will sign up for benefits at 11pm on the last day. A final communications push at the end will keep that date fresh in their mind. After all, one of most common questions workers ask is, What’s the deadline?
These tips apply whether your open enrollment begins in June, October or January. A balanced communications strategy will stop employee procrastination.
In this blog post, I will be talking about my summer internship here at Trion. I truly have found this to be an uplifting and outlandishly positive experience. Reflecting on this past summer, I am blessed to have worked alongside such a unique group of individuals. My time here has reassured me that marketing is the field for me—which is exactly what I set out to do this summer. I am approaching my senior year at Arizona State University and am eager to begin my professional career.
In my opinion, one of the main factors that made this internship so rewarding was the culture here. I found every member of Trion to be extremely friendly, outgoing, and extremely insightful. I gained insight into the Marketing and Communications world while here at Trion that I could not receive anywhere else. There was a wealth of positive experiences while at the same time widening my knowledge in the Marketing and Communications world.
If I was asked to talk about some of my favorite projects this summer it would be tough task, but here are some highlights. One of my favorite experiences was being able to sit in, and be included in, marketing meetings. First, it was really interesting to see all the creative minds that make up Trion. Another aspect I really enjoyed was being able to give my input and have everyone in the room openly listen and consider my ideas. Another project I worked on this summer was formulating an executive summary to be sent with a response to a Request for Proposal (RFP). In addition, I also did extensive work answering RFP’s. There was a new challenge and project every day, which made coming to the office refreshing and enjoyable.
This summer has been a great stepping stone. I believe that I have grown as a professional, and gained valuable and applicable information that has me aligned for success in the near future.
Ryan Barr is a senior majoring in Marketing and Sustainability with a minor in Media Analysis at Arizona State University, in Tempe, AZ. The facet of marketing he enjoys the most is the creative process of coming up with an effective and revenue-generating campaign.
When I took on the title of Marketing and Communications Associate about two years ago, I didn’t realize that it would take me most of that time to figure out exactly what that meant. The question, “Do you prefer working in marketing or communications?” continued to stump me… I couldn’t decide between the two because I couldn’t distinguish between the two disciplines. You can market different communications services and products—you can even market health care benefits plans to an employee audience—but you also use communications skills when you do all of those things. Hence, my conundrum.
My responsibilities seemed to intertwine, so I set out to untangle that knot. What was the purpose of two separate departments? What was my purpose as an employee who contributed to both?
During my time here, I’ve tried to tackle some of those questions. Here’s what I’ve come up with:
• Both branches involve communicating effectively. Whether that’s to a target audience, to internal employees, or in the context of a larger strategy, communicating clearly is not limited to the communications discipline. The concept of marketing guides companies through the development of products, identifies key audiences, establishes pricing and creates and/or promotes a brand. But a communications plan is necessary to execute much of that list.
• Communications is dynamic. At a basic level, it is the practice of creating and managing the flow of information from one party to another—but that can mean many different things and involve a plethora of skill sets. In our case, we work with employers to educate, inspire and engage employees around their benefits. And, we take into consideration how we want those audiences to react to what we present to them. Are we driving employees to a new online benefits portal? Asking them to think about kicking the habit? Our goals then inform our theme and graphic approach, and how we execute our tactics.
• The end result. While marketing creates a product or service and delivers it to the market to generate revenue, communications is not always sales-focused. At its heart, the communications discipline involves bridging gaps between brands, businesses, clients, consumers, and employees, among others. So the goals vary. Ours involve meeting employees where they are to talk to them about the employee benefits they can access.
In the end, I didn’t “untangle” any knot. But I did learn to think about the differences—and similarities—between a marketing strategy and a communications strategy, and how they can help you understand that both disciplines work hand in hand.
To learn more about our practice and how we explore new ways to communicate effectively every day, take a look around our site—and check out our portfolio.
[Dear reader: To fully share our team’s diverse perspectives with you, we have asked our summer interns to contribute to our blog during the time they are with us. These young professionals, who are preparing to lead the next generation of marketers and communicators, bring a unique and valuable voice to the conversation. You can learn more about each of our interns through their bylines at the bottom of their posts.]
In today’s world, the majority of people try to conform to what they are told is “normal.” We are constantly told how we should look and act through multiple media outlets. We are taught to have original ideas, but not to let those ideas stray too far from this so-called “normal.”
By trying to fit into the dull world of normal, however, we miss out on the beauty of being an individual. We all look, think, and feel differently. We can’t expect a circle to meet the requirements of a square. But to be normal, this is exactly what is expected of us.
Ryder loves sporting unique hairstyles.
My nephew Ryder is my inspiration on embracing my individuality. In his short 8 years of life, Ryder has had multiple different hairstyles. He’s had hair past his waist, which made many people mistake him for a girl. He’s had blue Mohawks and rainbow hair. He now rocks the galaxy look (shown in the photo above), with a shaved hair patch in the shape of a heart. He’s never once cared what people have said or whispered about him. He always says, “I don’t care. This is me and I like who I am.”
As a marketer, I think about Ryder and the other people in the world like him. I want to be able to reach them and express my message to them. As a marketer, however, I also see the challenge in reaching the people who aren’t like him — the people who are afraid to be themselves and let their true colors shine through.
I want to reach them and, hopefully, give them the confidence to be who they truly are. There is no such thing as normal, and that’s part of what makes life worth living.
Samantha Causland is a senior marketing student at Philadelphia University in Philadelphia, PA. The aspect of marketing she’s most interested in is consumer behavior and understanding how to position products so that they appeal to the consumer. Samantha aspires to be the head of a marketing team one day, but for now is looking forward to graduating and landing her first position with a great marketing team.