In the aftermath of the pandemic, employers have received a massive wake-up call — in more ways than one. Who knew so many people would rush to quit their jobs when The Great Resignation rolled through the workforce? And who thought organizations would still be embroiled in return-to-office battles, after everything we learned about remote work during the lockdown?
We’ve all felt our share of disruption in recent years. And with so much uncertainty around health and wellbeing, many employees are realizing just how important health benefits are. No wonder Pew Research found that, among people who quit their jobs in 2021, nearly half (46%) left primarily because benefits like health insurance and paid time off were lacking.
As a result, many employers have been racing to rethink their benefits packages. It makes sense for any organization that wants to attract and retain strong talent. But providing a comprehensive benefits package is not enough. You also need to be sure people understand what you offer and know how to make the most of what’s available to them.
This is where employee benefits communication can make a huge difference. In what ways? Let’s take a closer look at why and how the right strategies and tactics help…
Why Employee Benefits Communication Matters
You can provide the world’s best benefits package, but if people don’t know about it, you’re bound to miss the mark. This is why clear, consistent communication should be an integral part of your benefits strategy. Employees deserve to make informed decisions about the benefits they use. And it’s in your best interest to demonstrate your commitment to their wellbeing.
Employee benefits communication is more than just broadcasting information about healthcare plans, retirement savings programs, and other perks. It serves as a bridge between employers and employees by fostering workforce trust, engagement, and satisfaction.
Too often, employees don’t fully grasp the breadth and depth of their benefits package, or they’re unaware of recent updates and additions. For example, it’s not hard to imagine scenarios like these:
- A staff member doesn’t realize they’re eligible for paid time off, so they forego much-needed opportunities to relax, recharge, and focus on personal priorities. Their stress level rises. putting them at risk of burnout.
- Another employee avoids preventative medical care because they don’t know it’s covered by their health insurance plan. This delay causes an undetected condition to take hold.
Missed opportunities like these add up. And the negative impact reaches beyond employee health and wellbeing. It can also lead to costly unintended consequences when people feel exposed and unsupported, and they decide to leave.
In the wake of Covid, it’s even more important for employees to feel like they’re in the loop. Not only are healthcare costs continuing to rise, but people are more concerned about their health and wellbeing. In fact, 77% of survey respondents told CVS Health that the pandemic prompted them to pay more attention to their health in general, and 50% said the 2020 quarantine helped them achieve their health goals.
But on the downside, nearly 1 in 4 CVS survey respondents said they don’t understand their out-of-pocket medical care costs, and they don’t know how to interpret information published by their health plan provider.
By clearly communicating benefits, you can ensure that employees are more aware and invested in managing their wellbeing. This, in turn, can improve workforce productivity and loyalty.
Employee Benefits Communication in Recruitment
The first step in showing potential employees you truly care starts with effective benefits communication during the recruitment process. Most job candidates seriously consider benefits when choosing an employer, so showcasing your benefits package can differentiate your company and help seal the deal.
Be sure to clearly articulate the breadth and depth of your benefits in recruitment materials and job postings. This includes detailed information about health insurance, retirement plans, vacation policies, and any additional perks or unique offerings.
To make this information more coherent and memorable, you may want to publish a guide or brochure. Also, to extend your reach, consider using multiple communication channels.
For example, in addition to job postings and company websites, try leveraging social media platforms, employer branding videos, and employee testimonials to make your benefits offering more visible and enhance its perceived value. Digital outreach can help you tap into a broader pool of candidates with visually compelling content that is easy to access and understand.
How to Plan Benefits Communication
The annual enrollment period is naturally when organizations focus on benefits communication. But ideally, this is a continuous process. That’s why you’ll want to develop a year-round plan:
1. Before Open Enrollment
Create a communication roadmap to ensure that employees will have access to the information they need at the right time, so they can make informed decisions. This plan should outline key messages, relevant channels, and timelines for key events, as well as content development, production, and delivery.
Keep in mind that you’ll want to build awareness and anticipation among employees prior to open enrollment season, so they’ll be more prepared to engage when the time comes. Also, consider providing early access to educational resources and tools so people have ample time to familiarize themselves with available options and make informed choices.
2. During Open Enrollment
Targeted, ongoing communication is crucial throughout the open enrollment cycle. Plan to utilize various channels, such as email, intranet portals, and in-person meetings. This should ensure that employees receive consistent, personalized information about benefits options, relevant plan changes, and important deadlines.
Employees also appreciate opportunities to ask questions and seek clarification, whether through HR representatives, benefits fairs, online forums, or dedicated helplines. By maintaining open lines of communication, you can address any concerns promptly and provide the support people need to make informed decisions.
In addition, a benefits guide can be a particularly powerful tool, not just during enrollment but throughout the year. Think of it as a comprehensive resource with detailed information that clarifies various available options, along with eligibility criteria, enrollment processes, and frequently asked questions. You may also want to include real-life examples and case studies to help employees envision various benefits in action. This guide can be produced in print as well as digital formats, to meet diverse content preferences.
3. After Open Enrollment
Even after enrollment closes, you’ll want to reinforce the value of your organization’s benefits throughout the year. For example, you can provide timely updates when plans or processes change. Also, you can communicate about wellness activities, events, and resources, as well as employee assistance programs, and other support services.
In addition, it helps to offer feedback channels, as well as dedicated resources to assist employees who need help to access benefits and use them effectively. Regularly promoting these services reminds everyone that you care about their health and wellbeing.
Top Trends in Employee Benefits Communication
When planning, developing, and delivering benefits communication, consider these hot trends:
Because individuals have unique communication needs and preferences, personalized communication is an increasingly important trend. By leveraging innovative AI technology, you can tailor benefits communication to individual life stages, topic interests, content preferences, and more. This customized approach elevates engagement and helps people better understand and appreciate the benefits available to them.
2. Multichannel Approach
With the rise of digital communication, it’s essential to adopt a multichannel strategy. By integrating diverse communication channels such as email, intranets, mobile apps, and social media platforms, you can reach employees across different generations and work environments. As a result, benefits information becomes more readily available when and where employees want it.
Gamification techniques make benefits communication much more engaging and interactive. This includes quizzes, challenges, and online simulations that help educate employees about their benefits. By infusing an element of competitive fun, gamification encourages active participation, boosts knowledge retention, and improves the overall effectiveness of your communication efforts.
4. Simplified Language
To enhance comprehension and eliminate confusion, employers are moving away from complex jargon and using simplified language in benefits communication. By focusing on clear, concise messaging you can ensure that employees understand the details behind each benefit. This empowers them to make better-informed decisions.
A Final Note on Benefits Communication
Above all, keep in mind that successful benefits communication is an ongoing process that requires regular evaluation, adaptation, and feedback from employees. Working hand-in-hand with other internal communication efforts, benefits communication plays a vital role in shaping employee engagement, satisfaction, and retention. Ultimately, by relying on modern practices, you can develop and implement a communication strategy that resonates with your workforce and enhances their health and wellbeing.