How to Simplify Benefits Communication for Open Enrollment

by | Sep 19, 2019 | Benefits

“Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler.”    – Albert Einstein

Benefits communication is notoriously tricky. Lunch and learns? Employees resent taking time out of a busy day. Long emails? They’re all too easy to ignore. Hard copies of your benefits booklet? Expect them to be quickly stuffed into a desk drawer with best intentions for review “when things slow down.”

You already know that clear communication can make all the difference in your employees’ benefits experience. So how’s a benefits administrator to cut through the noise? Review these seven tried-and-true strategies now to make the most of your open enrollment benefits communication.

Write like a fifth-grader

Great communicators know the best way to talk about a subject is to K.I.S.S: keep it simple, stupid. Just look at how Apple advertises that its latest iPhone has “just the right amount of everything.” Instead of leaning on technical jargon, the company relies on words like “magical” and “powerful.” Most people don’t understand, or care, about tech specs. They want a cell phone that does the things they need. In other words, they’re more interested in the benefits than the features.

Apple communicates in simple terms that even a 10-year-old can understand.

Now, ask yourself: could a 10-year-old understand most of your benefits communications? Would their eyes glaze over if you tried to explain HDHPs, co-insurance, HSA, co-payment, or HRA? Resist the urge to use the industry’s newest acronym. Remember, your employees have been snoozing through benefits presentations for years. Basic English is your safest bet for clear communication.

To gauge the clarity of your communications, try a tool like Hemingway Editor, which applies a reading level to your text, or use Microsoft Word’s readability tool to gauge your Flesch-Kincaid readability score.

Put benefits in context with real-world examples

Use examples to help employees understand how benefits will make their lives better. Attach an example scenario to every benefit. If you’re talking about telemedicine, don’t say it’s “available 24/7/365.” Point out that parents can use their new telemedicine benefit to quickly get antibiotics for their daughter’s ear infection at 3 a.m. on Christmas Eve. If you’re discussing a formulary, give a tangible example of the cash price for Lipitor versus the cost on their plan. Humans relate to stories. So when they remember a relatable example, employees are more likely to make use of that amazing new benefit.

No one cares about benefits communication (until they do)

Deep down, you know that health insurance is boring. Most people would rather discuss sports, books, or movies —really anything besides benefits. At the same time, most employees will need their healthcare benefits in the next year. It’s important to reiterate that knowing what their coverage looks like now can save them money down the road. It’s just one reason a healthcare guidance platform is so critical to benefits communication. Teaching them that there’s a hub for their benefits knowledge (and that it isn’t their benefits administrator’s email inbox) is a simpler solution than administering a complete, preventative primer on their benefits.

Read our Employee Benefits Communication Guide for more.

Personalize your message

The ultimate goal of your benefits communication is an emotional shift from indifferent to engaged.

To achieve that goal, your presentation must be customized to your audience’s life experiences. An open enrollment meeting for senior management won’t match one for employees on the factory floor.

Consider segmenting your communications for different email lists, focusing on the pain points that create an emotional shift for your audience. You may also need to rely on different platforms in order to communicate with different teams. If the sales team is always on the road, for example, email may not even be the answer. You may want to tell them about your new EAP benefit via text message.

Brainstorm ways to segment your audience and tweak your message. HealthJoy’s artificial intelligence-powered virtual assistant, JOY, will personalize messages for users on a one-on-one basis based on their habits—and do it at scale.

Make great self-service tools available

The benefits marketplace is in a state of constant change. Tools and tech are just one way to provide your employees with a simpler communication experience. It’s worth asking: is your benefits package providing the best possible self-service tools to your employees? Engagement metrics reveal a lot about the employee benefit experience, so review them every year.

Calculate how much those tools are costing you for every use. Even the cheapest tools are expensive when the cost per use skyrockets due to low utilization. Give your employees the tools they can use year-round, on their own, then sit back and watch your HR department save hundreds of hours a year.

Read our Employee Assistance Program Guide for more.

Make benefits communications snackable

Your employees can lose interest in communication materials in as little as two seconds. It’s crucial that you capture their attention and deliver your core message as quickly as possible. Yet the typical benefits package consists of over 200 pages of material. This information overload doesn’t stop after open enrollment ends. It’s common to see multi-page emails go out to employees with monthly updates about benefits. When the brain sees too much information, it simply disengages. That’s why the two-second rule is essential.

Make sure anything you produce is scannable, with a simple hierarchy that gives the most important information priority. It should only contain the essential message points you are trying to deliver. Deliver your employee benefits communication in bite-sized pieces, rather than sending the whole meal.

Make it visual

You’ve heard “a picture is worth a thousand words.” So don’t forget to add graphics like on-brand images, authentic photos, animated GIFs, and beautiful fonts to your employee communications. According to Xerox, using color in communications increases attention span and recall by 82% and motivation by 80%. Need employees to respond during open enrollment? Add some color!

Another study on the ‘Principles of Educational Multimedia User Interface Design’ showed that information presented in a visual manner results in 3X better recall than verbal. The results increased to 6X better recall if you combine visual and oral communication.

The bottom line: adding relevant graphics to your emails, going beyond text in your presentations, and even dabbling in video makes your message more impactful.

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