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Tailor benefits message and medium for maximum impact

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in HR Management,Human Resources

Benefits administration is complicated, so it’s a safe bet that employees don’t have a clue about what goes on in your office. They may not understand the nuances of your benefits program, but they want to, said Ronald P. Moser, head of HR for the Tonawanda, N.Y., school system.

“Benefits are personal. That health plan, that 401(k)—that’s personal,” he told participants at a recent American Payroll Association conference.

Moser and co-presenter Sarona-Lee Wilde, of the Portland, Ore., public schools, emphasized that effective benefits communication relies on tailoring your message and medium to the audience you need to reach.

Keep it simple. When developing written communications, anticipate that some employees—those not fluent in English, for example—will struggle to understand it. “Write it in a way that a nonemployee would understand,” Wilde said. “Because sometimes the employee will have to bring it home for someone else to read and explain.”  

Use multiple media. Sure, you should still send that all-staff email. But consider the many other ways your employees access information, Moser counseled. Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn are all legitimate ways of reaching employees. In fact, they may be the best media for issuing simple reminders, such as upcoming benefits deadlines.

Benefits communication is usually about getting employees to do something—for example, confirm an address or choose a coverage option. Regardless of the medium, spell out the action step right up front, preferably in a subject line: “Update your beneficiary information by Monday, July 9.”

Reason: That helps cut through the e-clutter for employees who access your messages with their smartphones.

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