Take a Marketing Approach When It Comes to Benefits Communication

June 26, 2019
Inside HR
Read time: 4 mins

To maximize the impact of employee benefits communication, organizations need to take a marketing approach, according to experts at a recent Segal Benz webinar, Benefits Engagement: The 10 Keys to Unlocking Benefits Communication. At the webinar, Jennifer Benz, SVP communications leader at Segal Benz, and Lindsey Kohler, senior consultant at Segal Benz, provided a framework for using a marketing approach to fully engage employees in employee benefits programs.

“I think over the last couple of years the idea of marketing benefits and taking the best from consumer marketing and putting that into the benefits experience has gotten a lot of traction,” said Benz. “However, it is hard to know what it really means to take a marketing approach. Does that mean you are putting up YouTube videos? Does it mean that you are using social media? Does that mean that you are doing things that are crazy and creative?”

The speakers provided the following five components that will help companies implement a successful benefits communication program using a marketing approach: feedback, simplicity, year-round campaign, targeted messaging, and employee experience.

The first component is feedback, which means gathering insight into what employees want and where there are opportunities for improvement. Focus groups, surveys, and user testing are some examples of ways to collect feedback. “Focus groups are great because they allow you to have an interactive discussion with your employees and get initial reactions, as well as collect honest and open feedback that you can hopefully extrapolate across the larger organization,” Kohler noted.

Next up is simplicity. Employee benefits programs are complicated and human resources departments need to do the work for employees, the speakers emphasized. “Too often with benefits, we lead with the legal caveat or we lead with the exception, instead of leading with what is going to be powerful and impactful to the vast majority of employees,” Benz said. “We want people to feel like the programs are really useful for them. That means that we have to put a lot of work in to make communications really, really simple and easy to engage with. This means quick headlines or quick soundbites, which pull people into an online experience that will let them go deeper to get the information they need.”

Keeping the employee benefits communications messages simple really requires HR departments to take a multi-channel, year-round approach. “If we just pile on the information once a year during open enrollment, it’s going to be hard for people to get information, and it’s going to be hard to keep that much information communicated at one time simple and easy. But when we spread things throughout the year, we can provide that bite-sized information which is really going to drive people to action,” noted Benz.

Benz recommends using every resource available to provide information to employees throughout the year. “Traditional channels, such as guides, newsletters, postcards, employee meetings, health fairs, and manager talking points, have a large place in creating a year-round program,” she said. HR departments should also be using online and interactive channels, such as a benefits website, email, social media, videos, and decision-support tools, to provide benefits communication.

The last two components of taking a marketing approach are targeted messaging and employee experience. “As HR managers, you have this incredibly diverse population to engage. They are diverse in terms of age, family situations, earnings, etc.,” said Kohler. “We need to arrange content in a way that will make information seem more relevant to them. The key here really is to get creative in how you slice and dice the communications and your targeted groups.”

When thinking of the overall employee experience, HR departments need to examine “what an individual goes through in order to accomplish a task,” said Benz. If something takes 11 steps through several different platforms to accomplish, employees are going to disengage and not complete the process.

Lastly, Benz talked about creating a budget for benefits communications. “Even organizations that know they should be communicating more, who see the value in it, sometimes have a hard time advocating for it or getting a budget in place for a year-round communications campaign,” she said. “More than anything, it takes a very small investment relative to the overall cost of benefits. For most organizations, you are going to be spending far, far less than one percent of overall benefits costs to make a huge splash with communications.”

Source: CCH/Wolters Kluwer