Benefits Communications

Benefit communications drive employees to plans that promote proactive healthcare

Leadership involvement and employee education led employees to change their plans.

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Benefits enrollment is usually a fairly cut-and-dried activity. Even the best enrollment communications are characterized by plan comparisons and materials designed to make completing the process as quick and painless as possible. Genentech had a different challenge. Its success in rising to meet it has earned it first place in the “Benefits Communication” category of Ragan’s 2016 Employee Communications Awards.

As recently as 2013, 71 percent of Genentech employees were enrolled in a high-premium/low-deductible plan. Despite paying the higher premiums, employees often weren’t getting any added benefit and were paying more in total than they would if they were enrolled in another plan. The high premium / low deductible plan design also discouraged employees from taking an active role in their health and healthcare. For example, many employees enrolled in the plan would use a specialist as a default even when a general practitioner was all that was needed.  

The tactics Genentech employed to encourage employees to change plans and take greater ownership in their health and healthcare included the usual suspects: traditional mailers, posters and the like; emails and blog posts; videos and calculators. Recognizing that leaders model behavior, though, the team also introduced executive stories—along with those of frontline employees—about managing one’s health and taking ownership of one’s own health care. 

Then CEO Ian Clark was among those who sent emails to employees providing an overview of the U.S. health care landscape and discussing the importance of employees taking ownership of their health care. Communication also included photos of real employees and their families engaged in healthful activities. 

Infographics also supported the campaign, and the head of HR shared stories about her own diagnosis and cancer treatment to reinforce the importance of taking responsibility for health care. Videos and articles showcased other employees who dealt with health issues from multiple sclerosis to heart transplant surgery. 

The multimedia, multifaceted campaign was remarkably effective, with enrollment in the high-premium/low-deductible plan plummeting to 24 percent. 

For a comprehensive approach to addressing a significant issue in what is traditionally a dull topic, kudos to Craig Sullivan and Julie Tuggle.


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