New Year, New Strategy Advertise Your Employee Benefits More Often

When open enrollment season rolls around each year, employers generally make a significant effort to inform employees about their benefits plans. They hold meetings and send out materials covering all the options available to employees, program changes and regulatory updates. After this, however, many employers go silent for the rest of the year.

This one-and-done approach to benefits communications is definitely not a recipe for success—not for employees or for employers themselves. To reap the desired utilization and ROI from their sizable investments in employee benefits, organizations need a year-round communications strategy. After all, benefits programs are like so many other consumer programs: the more you “advertise” them, the more people want and use them.

Now Is the Perfect Time To Start
The start of a new year is a great time to get the ball rolling on a year-round communications strategy because your employees are particularly open to messages about their health and wellbeing at this time of year. These messages are everywhere—on television, in the news, in online and print publications, etc. People make and remake resolutions throughout the first few months of each New Year.

Take advantage of this momentum and let your employees know about the various programs that you make available to them. Tobacco cessation, exercise, weight loss, improved mental health, and financial wellness are all perennial concerns that employees focus on even more intensely at the start of the New Year. So marketing the programs you offer to help with these issues will be especially effective in the early months of 2020.

Of course, you’ll want to keep your initial momentum going to sustain high levels of utilization and ROI. This means you need to create a communications calendar that outlines a steady flow of specific messages to your employees. And don’t be afraid to communicate about the same topics several times throughout the year. Employees—just like any consumer—need to hear messages more than once to truly hear and understand them. Remember, the vast majority of employees need your help in understanding the value of their benefits and putting them to use properly. Communicating and educating frequently aren’t a nuisance, they’re a tremendous help.

If you’d like some tips about communication frequency, content, channels and more, read our previous post about “The Secrets to Better Benefits Utilization & ROI.”

Best Practices from the Experts

Best Practices from the Experts
A 2019 BenefitsPRO article offered several practical insights from subject matter experts that you should consider when mapping out your own year-long communications strategy:

“You’ll get better engagement if employees have the option to meet and talk with a benefits expert. Look for a partner that can provide experienced, licensed, knowledgeable benefits counselors with high business quality scores.”—Steven Johnson, Colonial Life & Accident Insurance Company

“Putting benefits in the context of goals can help employees better connect their enrollment choices in a given year to the long-term, as they are likely to face various obstacles along the way to reaching their goals.”—Meredith Ryan-Reid, MetLife

“Benefits communication is one area where your organization can leverage gamification using employee incentives or assessment-based tools. By providing your employees with gamified incentives to complete onboarding steps or learn about benefits options, you can incite real engagement within your organization and your benefits.”Paige LeBel, Hodges-Mace

When it comes to effective communications channels, insurance brokerage and consulting firm, Woodruff Sawyer, notes that email is a go-to method for benefits communications but it’s certainly not the only one. Other effective channels include town-hall meetings, collaboration tools (Slack, Yammer, etc.), other electronic tools (social media, instant messaging, and texting apps), in-person meetings, and printed materials can all help to increase engagement and utilization levels, depending upon your company’s culture and preferences.

Finally, the BusinessHub blog recently highlighted the importance of learning how your employees feel about your benefits program. Doing so is essential not only to communicating effectively but also to optimizing your programs over time.

“You can find out how your employees feel about your program by conducting surveys, analyzing provider reports, or studying provider and actuarial research,” the blog stated. “If you’re aware of what your employees like or don’t like about their benefits, you can make an effort to highlight those things in your regular communication. For example, if your plan includes a free annual biometric screening but your employees do not take advantage of it, you can include reminders in your communication program.”

Now that 2020 is underway, don’t fall back on a one-and-done communications approach. Treat your benefits programs the way a hot-shot advertising agency would: send out a steady stream of high-energy messages across a variety of channels, and be sure to do it all year long.

To learn more about effective benefits communications strategies and tactics, contact us here or call us at (866) 675-3751.