Employee Benefits eLine
Thursday, April 10, 2014 ― Vol. 13, No. 4
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The dos and doníts of employee benefit communication

As the lead client technology specialist, Amanda Jueneman has helped create several technology solutions for employers and employees. Her experience assisting organizations in engaging their workforce and solving a variety employee benefit challenges has taught her crucial dos and don’ts for employers when it comes to educating and motivating employees.

DO

Design your communications for a diverse workforce. “Diversity goes far beyond ethnicity,” says Jueneman. “Employers should tailor their communications for different age groups, working situations, learning styles and other needs or preferences.”

This is not necessarily as complex as it sounds. There are some essential boxes that employers should check when thinking about the different situations and needs of their audience, such as:

  • Spouses and dependents of employees who will be involved in benefits decision making and need to learn about the options. “Employers should be equipped to deliver clear and consistent messages to employees so they can view them at home with their families,” Jueneman says.
  • Employees in different locations. Employee Benefits Account Executive Lana Hitner helped create a communications strategy for School Specialty, which had among its 2,100 employees more than 500 sales associates in 49 states. “It was not feasible for the HR staff to meet face-to-face with all associates,” says Hitner. “Because of the demographics of the group, they needed the ability to provide a consistent, web-accessible message and reduce travel costs.”
  • New hires. Benefit communications must be clear, concise and readily available to new employees who know nothing about your benefits program.

Send clear, consistent and relevant messages. According to the 2014 MetLife U.S. Employee Benefit Trends Study, 54% of Gen Y employees need more help understanding how their benefits work.

Benefit Trends

Source: 2014 MetLife U.S. Employee Benefit Trends Study

“There are usually a variety of reasons why most employees are confused or not informed about their benefits,” says Jueneman, “and it’s not because HR professionals are poor communicators. They are typically excellent communicators. One reason for the confusion is that benefits today are complex and often changing, and HR needs help developing the right messages.”

A related reason, Jueneman says, is that employers often need to deliver different messages to different people, so keeping the messages relevant for each employee is a challenge. For example, older workers are more likely to be interested in critical illness insurance than younger workers.

Employers also need to ensure messaging is consistent. Keeping messages both relevant and consistent might seem contradictory, but “consistent” in this case means everyone receives the same message about any given benefit, rather than receiving slightly different interpretations from different people. This can happen when employers rely too much on onsite meetings, with HR staff traveling to multiple locations. “Consistency becomes much more important as benefits information changes,” says Jueneman, “which is happening frequently for many employers today. If you don’t have an organized system, you might be saying different things in different places — in print, in person and electronic media — about any given benefit. Electronic communications are much easier to keep updated than traditional forms.”

Track your communications.  “When you measure how effective a message is, you can make crucial adjustments to your strategy,” Jueneman says, “You can refine your messages so they are effective for your particular workforce and its various demographics.” Jueneman helps employers implement a system in which every employee has a unique username, allowing the employer to review individual usage. The employer receives detailed reports with tracking, survey and quiz results to assist in strategic planning.

DON’T

Don’t’ overlook traditional communications. “As employers fall in love with cutting-edge technology, they sometimes ignore traditional methods,” says Jueneman. “Paper communications and in-person meetings should still have a place in your strategy.”

For example, warehouse workers and other employees who don’t have consistent access to computers should be accommodated. Also, many people process information better in person as opposed to written form. “Online presentations could accommodate this learning style,” Jueneman says, “but the effectiveness of face-to-face meetings can’t always be duplicated with online or print communications, no matter how well-designed they are.”

Don’t wait for open enrollment. “Some employers think of a benefits communication strategy as something leading up to open enrollment,” Jueneman says. “But your communications should be ongoing, all year, to help new employees as well as existing ones. The goals of your strategy should not only be to help employees enroll, but also to help them get healthier and take advantage all your program has to offer.”

An effective employee benefits communication system can improve employee participation in employee benefits and other programs, help employees make better benefit decisions, reduce the burden on HR staff, lower costs and reach other objectives. Register for one of our upcoming webinars to learn about Associated Financial Group’s employee benefits technology solutions. For more information contact us at 800-258-3190 or info@AssociatedFinancialGroup.com.

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Insurance products are offered by licensed agents of Associated Financial Group, LLC. (“AFG”). • Insurance products offered are NOT deposits or obligations of, insured by the FDIC or any agency of the United States. • AFG is an affiliate of Associated Banc-Corp (“AB-C”). AB-C and its affiliates do not provide tax, legal or accounting advice. Please consult with your tax, legal or accounting advisors regarding your individual situation. This material is for information solely and should not be construed as tax, legal or accounting advice. Copyright © 2014 by Associated Financial Group, LLC. All rights reserved.