Blog 8/2/2019

Eight Tips for Communicating About Benefits on a Limited Budget

You know you need to communicate about benefits year round…but your budget’s been cut—again—and your team is already stretched thin. How do you keep your employees educated and engaged about their benefits when you’re operating on a shoestring?

1.Have a plan.

When you have limited resources, it’s important to stay focused. While it may be tempting to spend most of your communications budget at open enrollment, when employees are already thinking about their benefits—in most cases you’ll be better served by spreading out your communications across the entire year. By having a written, formal benefits communications strategy, you’ll be able to map out what messages need to get out to whom, and when—helping you narrow down the number and types of communications you send and to better allocate your limited funds.

2.Build your brand.

If your benefits communications aren’t easily identifiable as such, it might be time to create/revamp your benefits brand. You want to grab your employees’ attention and clearly convey “this information is important to YOU.” A catchy logo and tag line won’t cost a lot of money and can go a long way to ensuring your communications are actually opened and read!

3.Revisit existing channels.

Sure, it would be cool to create an interactive portal, introduce chat bots and virtual reality…but frankly, you just might need a refresh of your existing communications channels.

If you haven’t updated your benefits website lately (or the benefits page on your company website, if that’s what you’ve got), give it a refresh. Apply that new brand, make sure your content isn’t too text-heavy and keep messaging short and sweet. Think about adding some videos—you can shoot a two-to-three minute video on your phone and embed it in your site for pennies. Dust off some of the tools you use at open enrollment and see if you can’t repurpose them for other times of the year.

4.Get creative with your budget.

Your broker, TPAs and consultants likely have a lot of material available for free or at low cost. While you shouldn’t use these materials just because they’re free (or close to it)—you might not have the opportunity to apply your organizations brand to them—these materials might help fill some gaps in your communication strategy. And, representatives from these partners might make themselves available to meet with and answer questions from your employees throughout the year—either in live meetings or via webcasts.

In addition, don’t be afraid to ask your broker or consultant about any ideas they have about how you can offset or delay certain communications cost. For example, a vendor might be willing to use commissions to offset the cost of an active enrollment campaign—or even the cost of updating your compliance materials.

5.Target your audiences.

Use the stream, not the spray, setting on your communications! If you want more employees to enroll in Option A, you probably don’t need to devote a lot of resources to employees already IN Option A. Similarly, your younger employees –who might be choosing health coverage for the first time as they’re coming off their parents’ plans—will need more support and different support than employees approaching retirement age. Refer back to your communication strategy to determine what messages are critical for whom, and limit communications to those audiences.

6.Meet employees where they are—literally.

There’s nothing like a captive audience. Make sure your messages are unavoidable—even if that means, yes, putting posters on the back of the bathroom stall door! Posters and tent cards in break rooms or the copy room, pay inserts or messaging on electronic deposit sites, text messages (see below) are all hard to ignore.

7.Go mobile when you can.

According to Pew Research, 96% of Americans own a cell phone and 81% of those are “smart” phones. And according to other recent research, adults spend more time on their mobile devices than they do watching TV! Given that two-thirds of employees say they prefer to receive communications electronically, this can be an ideal channel for certain messages. Think of the print and postage costs you’ll avoid!

8.Keep it simple.

Finally, keep it simple. These days, fewer and fewer of us have the time, or the interest, in reading a lot of content. Today’s generations scan and swipe, and have no patience for lots of click thru or wading through lengthy brochures. Again, postcards, posters, short brochures (around 8 pages) with plenty of visuals, texts, and interactive documents will help capture employee attention and keep them engaged long enough to receive your message.

Employees and their family members make choices about their health and about using their benefits all year long—not just at open enrollment. Keeping benefits top of mind, and making sure employees have the information they need to make the best choices for their situation, requires year-round communications. With a little creativity and a lot of planning, you can ensure your employees have the resources they need when they need it—and improve your employees’ appreciation of their benefits package and their employer.

(Kim Buckey, vice president of client services, DirectPath)

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