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You’ve spent a good deal of time and energy crafting a competitive benefits package that you’re confident suits the needs of your employee population.

But the work isn’t over yet! Now comes the crucial part of communicating the details to workers so they’re aware of what’s available to them and can make an informed choice.

Here I’ll share some challenges, methods, best practices, and a process for effective employee benefits communication.

Common Challenges Of Employee Benefits Communication

The game Chinese Whispers/Telephone is a good example of how difficult coherent communication can be and how easily messaging can be misinterpreted.  

Communicating to employees about benefits is challenging because of:

  • The complexity of information: Employee benefits can be complex, involving intricacies about eligibility, options, and the impact of certain choices. Simplifying this information without losing essential details can be difficult.
  • Engagement: Capturing and maintaining employees’ attention amidst their busy schedules and varied interests can be tough. People might miss communications or overlook those they perceive as irrelevant or too complex.
  • Diverse workforces: Workforces often consist of a diverse range of employees with different needs, preferences, languages, proficiencies (think tech), and levels of understanding.
  • Legal and regulatory compliance: Benefits communication must comply with relevant laws and regulations. These can complicate the communication process by restricting how information is presented and requiring that certain information be included, 
  • Resource constraints: Creating, maintaining, and delivering effective benefits communications can be resource-intensive. You may come against time, budget, and personnel constraints.

7 Effective Employee Benefits Communication Methods

With the above challenges in mind, here are some effective methods for effectively communicating employee benefits.

Welcome kits for new employees

Provide comprehensive benefits information in welcome kits for new hires. This should include detailed descriptions of all benefits, how to enroll, and who to contact for questions. 

An effective welcome kit will additionally include the following resources: 

Summary of benefits and coverage

This document will provide employees with a snapshot of the benefit plan’s key features such as covered health services, cost-sharing rules, coverage limitations, and exclusions using easy-to-understand terminology. It will serve as one of the best resources for plan comparisons. 

Uniform glossary of terms

To decide if your company's benefits meet their needs, employees must first understand how the benefit plans work.

A common blocker employees face is the language used in benefit resources. This document serves to define commonly used health plan terminology such as “deductible”, “co-insurance”, “co-pays” etc to ensure employees grasp how to efficiently use their benefits. 

Please note that, under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), group health plans are required to periodically share these documents with plan participants. You can request these documents from your benefit providers.

Email updates

Send periodic emails updating employees on any changes or additions to the benefits package, reminders about enrollment periods, and tips on how to make the most of their benefits.

A good practice when drafting email communications is to include links to your benefit resources. 

Oftentimes, we have so much to communicate but are limited with how much we can include in an email. The longer the email the more likely it won’t be read completely and that can lead to employees missing important benefit information.

By sharing important details such as any changes, dates, and actions required and linking more detailed resources employees can properly digest the information while also driving a self-service model.

Intranet or employee portal

Maintain an up-to-date section on the company intranet or employee portal where all benefits information is readily available, including FAQs, contact information for benefits providers, and instructional videos.

Everyone grasps information differently, when building your intranet it's important to include resources that adhere to different learning styles. 

For visual learners, step-by-step guides with photos to reference would be most accessible while for auditory learners video recordings drive learning best. Always remember to meet your employees where they’re at.

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Interactive sessions

Organize Q&A sessions, webinars, or workshops where employees can ask questions and get immediate answers regarding their benefits. This helps in clarifying doubts and making informed decisions.

It’s important to be intentional with your sessions and ensure the content is useful to employees. So, before coordinating an event, ask employees what they would like to learn more about or what they are struggling to understand.

If you have a ticketing system, run reports and see where your more common questions are concentrated, or send a survey out semi-annually to hear from your employees. If you engage employees in this process you will find they will be much more likely to participate. 

It’s also important to note that some employees may want to attend but may be double booked so, if possible, record your sessions and post them on your company intranet

Physical materials

Brochures, flyers, and printed guides distributed at the workplace or mailed home are useful for raising awareness and promoting usage.

Pro tip: always reach out to your insurance providers as they normally have already made to distribute resources for you to share with your team. 

One-on-one consultations

Offer personal meetings with an HR rep or benefits specialist who can provide tailored advice to employees based on their specific needs.

Employees may not feel comfortable asking questions in a group setting because they need confidentiality to discuss specific benefit questions or concerns, or they may just feel embarrassed to ask what they may feel is a “simple question”.

By providing a safe space employees can ask questions they will be more open with their needs and consequently will engage more with the benefit offerings.

Pro tip: Darcy Mayfield: Bring in a financial advisor for free quarterly financial planning sessions for individuals e.g. 1 hour a quarter.

Benefits fairs

Organize annual or bi-annual events where representatives from various benefits providers can present their offerings and interact directly with employees.

If done right, benefit fairs can be a one-stop shop for employees to address all of their benefits questions and concerns directly with respective providers and learn about the latest benefit offerings.

Employee Benefits Communication Best Practices

Again with the above challenges and methods in mind, here are some best practices to help you craft your strategy and comms.

Communicate about benefits regularly 

Communication efforts should extend beyond open enrollment. By communicating regularly with employees, you help ensure benefits stay top of mind for your population and cultivate a culture of wellness. 

Utilizing a variety of communication methods such as those listed above is vital. An email will not always be the best method of communication. 

  • For quick reminders, team communication platforms such as Teams and Slack have notification features you can configure to be shared with your organization or targeted group
  • For benefit news or announcements, an email with high-level information linked to your company intranet or similar with detailed resources may be the most helpful.
  • For more nuanced changes or announcements, live information sessions may also be needed to create a space to address questions and concerns. 

Make sure your chosen communication method meets the needs of the message. 

Understand your audience

To tailor your communications effectively you need to understand your target audience. 

To better understand your audience’s communication preferences and levels of understanding:

  • Use employee data e.g. demographics and current benefits package
  • Send surveys
  • Run focus groups

Using this information you can create personas that give you a framework for tailoring benefits communications to workers.

Use technology

Tools such as benefits administration software, learning management systems, and intranets can be used to store information about benefits and the process of selecting them.

Benefits administration software is particularly useful here as many also include a self-service portal that helps employees choose benefits.

Collaborate with your Marketing Team

Marketing is all about communications and your organization’s marketing department will be able to help you communicate benefits information to employees with the same level of professionalism and branding as they do your organization to customers. 

Utilize partnerships with providers

Providers will know their products inside out and are best placed to provide information and ask questions. They normally have readily available resources for you to distribute and are also willing to collaborate or drive benefit education sessions. 

Design for simplicity

When messaging and disseminating information, aim to be as thorough as possible and use simple language. 

Remember, you don’t have to provide all the details in a single communication as long as you highlight where employees can access more detailed resources and more support if needed. 

Tools like the Hemingway Editor can help you craft easy-to-read emails and other communication materials. Again, marketing can help you here.

Measure the effectiveness

The ultimate indicator of your communication effort’s success is enrollment and benefits utilization.

However, you can also measure the effectiveness of your communication efforts by looking at data such as email open rates, user behavior in your benefits admin software/intranet/LMS, and feedback from employees.

How To Develop Your Benefits Communication Strategy

With the above challenges, methods, and best practices in mind, it’s time to tie it all together to develop your employee benefits communication strategy.

Define objectives

Start by clearly defining what you want to achieve with your communication strategy. Are you looking to improve awareness of company policies, boost engagement, facilitate change, or ensure everyone understands their benefits? Setting clear goals will guide your strategy development.

Understand your audience

Analyze your workforce to understand their needs, preferences, demographics, and communication behaviors. 

Consider factors such as age, cultural background, job roles, locations, and technology usage.

Choose the right channels

Based on your audience analysis, determine the most effective channels for communication. 

These could include emails, intranet, newsletters, meetings, social media, mobile apps, or physical notice boards. It’s often effective to use a mix of digital and traditional methods to reach everyone.

Develop key messages

Create clear, consistent, and relevant messages that align with your objectives and resonate with your audience. Your messages should be easy to understand and reflect the company’s values and culture.

Plan your content

Develop a content calendar that schedules regular updates, announcements, and engagements. 

Plan for different types of content based on your personas and the resources available to you.

Engage leaders and managers

Ensure that leaders and managers are actively involved in the communication process. They should be trained to communicate effectively and serve as champions of the strategy, helping to disseminate information and provide feedback.

Feedback mechanism

Incorporate mechanisms for employees to provide feedback on the communications they receive. This can be through surveys, suggestion boxes, or informal channels. Feedback will help you gauge the effectiveness of your strategy and make necessary adjustments.

Measure success

Establish metrics to evaluate the effectiveness of your communications. Metrics could include engagement rates, feedback quality, comprehension tests, or specific performance improvements. Use these insights to refine and improve your strategy over time.

Continual improvement

Regularly review and update your communications strategy to adapt to new challenges, changes in the workforce, or shifts in company direction. Keeping your strategy dynamic will help maintain its effectiveness.

Training and resources

Provide training and resources for employees to understand and make the most of the communication tools available to them. Also, train your communications team on best practices and new tools to keep improving their skills.

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By Finn Bartram

Finn is an editor at People Managing People. He's passionate about growing organizations where people are empowered to continuously improve and genuinely enjoy coming to work. If not at his desk, you can find him playing sports or enjoying the great outdoors.

By Camila Menendez

Camila Menendez-Santos is a Benefits professional with experience working with large to mid-size companies within the Tech industry as well as start-up environments. Her passion lies in sustainable benefit plan designs, benefits education, and policy creation to enhance the employee experience.