3 ways to show a healthy return on your benefits communications

With planning, strategy and measurement, you can execute an effective and efficient benefits communication program and demonstrate a healthy return on investment.

Benefits communication tips

Employee benefits are a huge expense for employers, accounting for nearly 30 percent of an organization’s total compensation costs (Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2017). With the already large investment in the benefits themselves, one can easily see why organizations want to communicate about benefits on a shoestring budget.

Internal communications in general can be a hard sell to executives, because proving their return on investment (ROI) can be difficult. As a result, human resources and internal marketing departments frequently find themselves faced with the enormous task of communicating complicated benefits packages with very limited resources.

This type of thinking can be shortsighted. Great internal marketing campaigns, including communications campaigns focused on employee benefits, can pay off in a number of ways, including:

  • An increase in employees taking full advantage of their benefits, resulting in the organization getting a larger ROI on the overall benefits package
  • A decrease in questions or inquiries to human resources departments
  • An increase in employee engagement, satisfaction and retention

Employees are typically an organization’s largest expense and an organization’s greatest asset. As more organizations look to benefits packages to maintain their competitive advantage in attracting and retaining top employees, it only makes sense to back up this investment with a benefits communication campaign that reaches hearts and minds and ensures that employees know and understand their full benefits—and why those benefits are just one reason the organization is a great place to work.

Whether your budget is big or small, here are a few ways to get the most out of your benefits communication investment:

1. Personalize your messages.

One of the biggest mistakes organizations make when designing a benefits communications campaign is including every detail in every piece of communication that they present to employees. Massive benefit booklets, lengthy staff meetings and long PowerPoint presentations are examples of this, resulting in information overload for employees and questions about how the benefits actually benefit them.

Instead of presenting everything at once, organizations should present information in smaller amounts over a period of time. This could be done through an ongoing email campaign or a series of staff meetings or short video clips that explain different portions of the benefits package and any changes that are coming.

Organizations can also present information specific to different groups through communications targeted to these audiences. Benefits that are targeted to expectant parents, those nearing retirement or those interested in various elements of the health plan can be given in smaller focus groups or other formats, so employees who aren’t affected don’t have to sift through information that doesn’t relate to them.

2. Find ways to reuse and recycle.

Running any kind of efficient communications or marketing campaign means not reinventing the wheel. Chances are elements from past benefits communications that are still applicable can be updated to reflect any changes for the coming benefits open enrollment period.

Throughout the campaign, find ways to pull out content from longer pieces and reuse it in emails, social media posts and staff announcements.

In developing content, think about ways to get your workforce involved in communicating about benefits. Human resources departments can recruit employees from different departments to participate in short videos answering frequently asked questions, or ask team members to write testimonials about their experience with a particular benefit or process.

3. Begin with the end in mind.

One of the biggest challenges with internal marketing campaigns is measuring effectiveness. Before designing the benefits communication campaign, human resources departments should set goals for the benefits program or the open enrollment period. Goals may include measurable factors like:

  • Achieve a higher percentage of employees signing up for health benefits
  • Increase staff contributions to 401ks or other investment plans
  • Increase staff participation in the organization’s health initiative
  • Reduce the number of benefits questions to human resources departments during open enrollment or throughout the year

These are quantitative goals, but don’t forget the importance of qualitative factors like employee morale and attitudes. A great benefits communications campaign should result in employees being excited about their benefits and the overall organizational culture. Surveys or informal check-ins with departments are some ways to gauge whether the benefits communications campaign is effectively sharing the right messages.

In today’s health care landscape, the cost of employee benefits is likely to only go up. With this large investment, it only makes sense for organizations of all sizes to ensure that staff members know their benefits packages and can take full advantage of what’s being offered.

Benefits communication campaigns don’t need to be expensive. With the right planning, strategy and measurement, human resources and internal marketing departments can execute effective and efficient benefits communication programs that can demonstrate a healthy return on investment.

Lisa Laine Miller and James Gabriel Brown are the principals and co-founders of LaineGabriel, an agency specializing in internal marketing campaigns. 

This post first ran on Health Care Communication News in 2017.

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