Best Long Feature Article

Duke University brings dry employee benefits to life

The stories of four employees make the value of benefits, and their importance, relevant to the workforce.

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If you’ve read internal communication articles about open benefits enrollment periods, you know they’d make a great cure for insomnia. 

The story of one employee at Duke University who had opted to skip benefits coverage, then was diagnosed with cancer, served as the impetus for the HR team to tell not only her story, but the stories of three other employees, each addressing another dimension of benefits. In addition to the cancer victim, one employee helped convey the importance of preventive care through his recollection of avoiding doctor visits despite warning signs. 

The team scattered other important, but usually dry, information throughout the article, such as average annual out-of-pocket costs for Duke’s employees. Visually compelling infographics supported the story and provided key information to those employees more inclined to scan than read. 

The article, which appeared in Duke’s bi-monthly employee publication, prompted HR to send the magazine home with the rest of the open enrollment package, ensuring it was seen not just by employees but also by family members (who often are the primary benefits decision makers). The article was also repurposed into individual stories for the university’s intranet. 

Anecdotal feedback proved the article hit home, as did the high number of employees making adjustments to their benefits during the open enrollment period. 

We’re pleased to present Duke University’s Office of Communication Services with the prize for Best Long Feature Article in Ragan’s 2014 Employee Communications Awards.

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