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March 1, 2021

A leader’s guide to effective benefits communication

Madalyn Altschuler

The most influential business leaders motivate and inspire their workforce through clear communication and thoughtful messaging. In the world of employee benefits, you have the power to set the tone for how your employees will engage and utilize their health care. Every leader—regardless whether you are directly connected to the benefits or HR team—plays a vital role in your organization’s benefits communications efforts. You have the ability to increase your employees’ level of trust and instill confidence in your employee benefits offerings. As a result, your communication efforts can be a key driver to lower premium costs, improve morale and well-being, and reduce employee turnover and absenteeism. Here are four principles to help shape your employee benefits communications and culture of well-being.

Keep an open dialogue.

Fun fact! 80 percent of conversations lead to action and 97 percent of conversations can build meaningful relationships.

Often times, organizations determine their benefits and employee perks based on industry trends, benchmarking, and—of course—company budget. Although those sources provide a stable foundation for decision-making, they may not take into consideration the unique needs of your employees.

So, how can you gain insight into those important factors? Employee feedback, of course! Focus groups, employee surveys, and one-on-one discussions are all advantageous methods to facilitate open dialogue and gain employee trust. They help maintain a culture of openness with your employees to gather their perspective and solidify which benefits will contribute the most value to the total compensation package you provide. Unsure what types of questions to ask? Your MMA team would be happy to support you.

Communication is not one and done.

While open enrollment is often the one time per year that employees tend to pay close attention to their benefits, it’s important to keep them engaged year-round to ensure they make the most of what they enroll in. After all, 41 percent of employees are concerned about infrequent communication about benefits.

When communicating benefits information, thoughtful timing is key. Focus on what matters to your employees at that specific point in time. Is the end of the plan year on the horizon? Remind employees to max out their benefits before they’re gone. Is news of the COVID-19 vaccine becoming more relevant to your population? Provide employees guidance on how their benefits will play a role in the vaccination process.

As both your organization and the employee benefits landscape evolve, keep your employees up to date with what is essential for them to know along with any new offerings or programs they can take advantage of.

Focus on well-being in all forms.

This past year has proven to be incredibly challenging, in large part because of the COVID-19 health crisis as well as social and political issues. These matters have taken an immense emotional toll on employees.

According to the “2021 Working Americans’ State of Stress Report,” 76 percent of workers describe themselves as stressed and 72 percent of employees feel burnt out. This is compared to 42 percent before the pandemic.  Furthermore, preventive healthcare utilization has decreased by 65 percent since the pandemic began. It’s clear that employees need to be supported on all fronts—mentally, emotionally, and physically.

As a leader, you have an opportunity to support employees in their well-being journey, including encouraging them to take time to disconnect from work, focus on their family, and engage in their personal health. Here are some tips to effectively communicate your company’s benefits and wellness resources:

  1. Paint the full picture. Clearly explain how your company’s wellness initiatives and benefit offerings can keep employees healthy, potentially reduce their need for medical care, and lower their out of pocket costs.

  2. Simplify your communication. As you elaborate on wellness or benefits-related offerings, such as biometric screenings or health risk assessments, define these terms so the medical jargon does not go in one ear and out the other.

  3. Make it a two-way conversation. Not only should you plan for questions or concerns, but you also need to vocalize your company’s availability to support employees’ feedback and questions. If you host a benefit fair, wellness fair, or even just one-on-one meetings, highlight the value of participation and how these are outlets for personalized support. This will inspire confidence, earn respect, and yield greater engagement.

  4. Highlight confidentiality. Health information can strike an emotional chord for some, so be sure to communicate that employee privacy is a top priority and always protected. Employees will feel more comfortable partnering with you on their well-being journey if they trust their personal information is secure.

Embrace the shift to virtual solutions.

It’s no secret that technology opens the door for employees to have greater access to learning and assistance and this past year truly demonstrated the value of virtual solutions in the world of benefits communications.

In fact, 56% of employers plan to accelerate digital communication for increased outreach to employees in an effort to maximize access, make benefits more interactive, and track participation. To help you stay on top of the plethora of virtual solutions, we’ve highlighted a few of the top tools companies are leveraging to educate and engage employees about their benefits:

  1. Dedicated websites or mobile apps: A custom branded website or mobile app can be a centralized hub for your employees and their dependents to easily access their benefits information, plan documents, carrier contact information, and more.

  2. Virtual benefits guides: Thick, printed benefit guides are on track to become obsolete. Many virtual solutions, such as Marsh & McLennan Agency’s FlipBook platform, allow employers to host benefits guides or plan documents online. FlipBook keeps employees engaged with built in navigation tools and embedded URLs.

  3. Video education: Employees are 75 percent more likely to watch a video than read text, which is why videos are an exceptional outlet for employees to learn about their benefits. Bite-sized educational clips or open enrollment and new hire recordings are all video options you can host on a benefits site or app, company intranet, or simply email to employees.

  4. Quick Response (QR) codes: With smartphone adoption and usage exponentially on the rise, QR codes offer employees the ability to connect employees to their benefits in a chic way. With the click of a smartphone camera, a QR code can launch employees to their benefits materials, benefit sites, and videos.

  5. Virtual benefits or health fairs: For the foreseeable future, most in-person large group gatherings are on pause. Fortunately, virtual benefit and health fairs have emerged as a dynamic way for employees to visit online carrier or vendor booths, watch benefit presentations, participate in fitness and wellness classes, and more.

Research shows that for every dollar spent on employee wellness, there is an estimated return of $1.50. Leaders who invest their time, money, and resources to craft and communicate their benefits and wellness offerings are not only going to see a healthier and happier workforce, but a more successful, productive organization. If your leadership team would like to focus on benefits communications or learn more about how to incorporate these strategies into your year-round approach, contact us.