Regular, focused communication can enhance employee engagement with benefits
The days of holding an employee meeting during open enrollment, passing out a few brochures and calling it good are long gone. Employee engagement today requires a fresh approach to not only what employers communicate but also how and when they communicate it.
“There has been quite a shift in how people prefer to receive their content, particularly over the past couple of years — and it seems that trend is not going away,” said David Stehler, participant service manager for Benefit Resource. “The biggest takeaway is not which channel people prefer but the need to communicate through multiple channels.”
Related: 3 keys to clear benefits communication
Stehler and Becky Seefeldt, vice president of strategy for Benefit Resource, shared their insights on “How to Keep Participants Informed All Year Long” during an April 26 webinar. Seefeldt outlined four key actions to consider:
- Understand how your benefits are being used.
- Identify bite-sized messages to improve employees’ experience with their benefits.
- Leverage the “off-season” to introduce new benefits or reeducate employees on underutilized benefits.
- Build a communications calendar to stay on track all year long.
Engaging messages are both targeted and concise. For maximum effectiveness, focus each communication on only one or two topics. The first topic will average 25% to 35% of click activity, while the fourth topic will average less than 3% percent of click activity.
“The more content you provide in each communication, the less focus and attention each individual topic will receive,” Stehler said. “Try to limit each communication to one or two main topics The more topics you include, the fewer people will click and read the further they go. Ongoing communications that focus on specific topics will provide a better bang for your buck.”
The best tactics are part of a strategic plan that ends, not begins, with open enrollment. “The best way to get a stake in the ground is to set goals, especially ones that are specific, measurable, actionable, realistic and time-bound,” he said. “A good name for it is SMART.“
Potential ideas include:
- Send one benefits reminder communication each month.
- Hold a benefits education workshop for employers once each month.
- Invite benefits partners to speak with and educate employees outside of open enrollment.
- Commit to starting open enrollment education 30 days earlier than in the past.
- Try one or more new methods of communicating with employees.
“Picking a single communication reminder each month will make it easier to create short and sweet content that is digestible to readers and less of a burden on the person creating the content,” Stehler said.
These tactics are especially important if there are significant changes to be communicated.
“If you are considering shifts in your benefits offerings, start early and lay the groundwork ahead of open enrollment,” Seefeldt said. “You want to look at early education. It’s a good time to use overviews of quick facts. As you get closer, you can move on to some of the specifics and answer questions such as who can have the benefit or what things will affect their eligibility.
“As you get closer to open enrollment, the engagement component comes on strong, and you want to encourage people to interact and determine if that benefit is going to make sense for them. This is a good time if you want to run contests or drive them to decision-support tools. The goal is to create a connection for that individual.“
A communications calendar can help keep messaging on track. Seefeldt and Stehler provided one example of possible topics:
- Month 1 – Activate card, get online, complete your profile
- Month 2 – Using your card and digital wallet
- Month 3 – How to submit a claim
- Month 4 – Why do I need to submit receipts?
- Month 5 – What is eligible?
- Month 6 – What changes can be made to my benefits?
- Month 7 – Mid-year check-in/balance vs. rest of year
- Month 8 – Resources reminder
- Month 9 — What to expect this open enrollment
- Month 10 – Estimate your election for coming year
- Month 11 – Reminder to check your balance
- Month 12 – What happens to account at year-end
The best approach is not one-size-fits-all but a targeted strategy tailored to the needs of the workforce.
“Start small and build up to see how it goes, adjusting for future years based on how the employee experience goes,” Stehler said. “Trying one or more of these methods of communicating with employees is something you may want to strive for and build upon.”