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10 low-cost communication tips to start ‘open season’ right

by on
in Employee Benefits Program,Human Resources

by Dana Burnette

Most organizations don’t invest a lot of time or money in communicating employee benefits because they don’t believe it reaps a big payoff.

They’re wrong. Making sure employees have an up-front understanding of their benefits options pays off.

Studies show that employees who work for companies that do a good job of communicating about their benefits are more satisfied than those at organizations with poor communication efforts—even if the benefits themselves aren’t quite as good.

You don’t want talented employees defecting to your competitors for an extra couple of dollars an hour when you could easily keep them if they understood how valuable their benefits are.

Too many organizations are still plopping a benefits booklet in front of employees and telling them to figure it out. That just doesn’t work anymore.

Benefits have become too complex for them to figure them out on their own. They need your help—and lots of it.

With benefits election open-enrollment season looming at organizations across the country, here are 10 ways you can do a better job of communicating with your organization’s employees. None of them costs a fortune. All can help increase employee participation in your benefits program.

1. Feed Generation Y’s focus on education. Your youngest employees were raised in a point-and-click environment, and they want to know everything. Help them understand which benefits they need during this time of their lives. Teach them how to be good consumers of benefits.

2. Tailor different kinds of communication
for employees in different life stages. Young singles need different kinds of insurance than do parents or preretirement employees. Each of those groups likes to receive benefits information in different formats. Younger workers like to get everything online, while baby boomers tend to prefer paper. Offer both.

3. Make your benefits messages pop. Repurpose old messages by tacking on engaging headlines and by delivering them via video, podcasts and e-mail blasts. If you capture employees’ interest, they’re more likely to pay attention. Otherwise, expect a lot of them to miss the enrollment deadline and simply hope last year’s choices are still good for them.

4. Use scenarios in your messages.
Example: “If you have allergies and frequently visit your doctor, here’s how Insurance A performs versus Insurance B.”

5. Create a web portal for benefits information so employees can access it anytime it’s convenient. Include information about life events in the form of questions and answers. Example: “How do I add my new baby to my insurance?”

6. Hold group meetings
to explain your benefits and answer employees’ questions. Invite vendors to speak about each benefit.

7. Offer employees a chance to meet one-on-one with benefits consultants to discuss personal needs.

8. Ask your benefits providers to work on site with employees and to contribute materials for your communication campaign. Many will do it free.

9. Include voluntary benefits
such as dental, vision, identity-theft and pet insurance in your discussions and communication about benefits.

10. Communicate about benefits all year long—not just during open enrollment. Employees pay more attention to information if it comes when they need it. You never know when they’ll need it.

_______________________________

 Dana Burnette is benefits communication and education director for Colonial Life.

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