Benefits Communication Tips Shared

Communication campaigns drive adoption and engagement

By Stephen Miller, CEBS July 2, 2014


Studies have linked the perception of workplace benefits with satisfaction and retention. But “without solid communication efforts, employees may not understand or value even the best and most generous benefits plans,” said Mary Schafer, vice president of benefits and talent outsourcing at payroll provider ADP, during a June 25 presentation at the 2014 Society for Human Resource Management Annual Conference and Exposition in Orlando.

Communication campaigns can help drive adoption and engagement in benefit programs, Shafer said.

Start by asking the right questions, she advised. These include:

Who are we talking to?

What do they need to know, and when do they need to know it?

What action are we trying to promote?

How can we arm managers to communicate?

The best messaging is “short and sweet, using simple and memorable language,” she noted. “Don’t get caught up in alphabet soup. That gets confusing fast” to employees.

Multiple Channels

“Pick the right mix to reach your audiences,” Shafer recommended. Options can include:

Print: posters, postcards, brochures, timelines and home mailings.

Electronic: e-mails, videos, podcasts or surveys.

Mobile: Communications designed for smartphones and tablets, as well as text messages.

Social media: Twitter, YouTube, Slideshare and all the rest.

Messaging through these channels should be integrated. For instance, “all print pieces should include a QR code that can be scanned with a smartphone, linking to videos about benefits being discussed or an interactive website designed to drive the use of support tools,” Shafer said.

In addition, benefits websites should have two faces:

An externally accessible site that provides basic participant information without a log-in and is accessible to family members who influence (or make) benefits decisions for the household. “This can also be a recruiting tool,” Shafter pointed out.

An internal portal where employees can sign up or change their benefits, view personalized information about their rewards package, and find support tools for making decisions that meet their individual and family needs.

Review program goals and strategies at least once a year, Shafer recommended. Analyze online click-throughs, leverage employee surveys, and compare goals (employee actions) with outcomes. Then “measure, refine and follow up.”

“Communications isn’t a one-time open enrollment event; it’s an all-year-long event,” Shafer said. “Try one thing new every year” and “create a ‘benefits brand’ that runs through all communications channels.”

Also, “personalize when possible” to individuals—providing resources on financial planning or employee assistance programs to those who borrowed against their retirement funds, for instance—or based on group demographics.

“Leverage employee stories, make it relatable, and have fun with the message,” Schafer urged.

Stephen Miller, CEBS, is an online editor/manager for SHRM. Follow him on Twitter @SHRMsmiller.​

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