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Employee Benefits Communication: What Clients Need to Know

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Quick look: Effectively communicating employee benefits is essential during open enrollment season but can also make a positive business impact for clients year-round. One-third of workers say benefits are as important to them as salary, yet nearly double that don’t feel they can turn to their employers with benefit-related questions. Brokers can share these benefit communication tips with clients to help them optimize costs, boost benefit awareness and enrollment, and attract and retain talent throughout the year.

Your clients have likely updated their employee benefits packages amid the Great Resignation, but what about how they communicate those offerings to their workers? Today’s talent is paying close attention to their benefits, and in this rigorous labor market, there is little room for mistake.

Let’s explore several employee benefits communication tips that brokers can share with clients to help boost benefit awareness and utilization – especially during open enrollment season – which can aid in driving cost efficiency and attracting and retaining talent.

Communication today

The world as we know it has changed over the past two years. This includes employees’ communication preferences, which is important for your clients to understand if they want to make their employee benefits communications the best they can be.

Did you know:

  • 43% of U.S. adults text more often now than pre-pandemic, and almost a quarter use email more frequently
  • On average, employees receive 121 work emails every day
  • Employees who use collaboration tools like Slack are connected to the application for an average of nine hours each workday

Employees are more active on digital channels than ever before, which can be beneficial and challenging when it comes to employee benefits communications. Understanding preferred communication channels can help with targeting, but clients must also determine how to make their message stand out in a sea of others.

The value of refreshed messaging

The right benefits package – and properly communicating those offerings – is vital to your client’s success. Today’s employees value their benefits, sometimes as much as their pay rate, and are willing to change employers to get what they need.

Recent research has shown that 41% of workers are likely to look for a new job with better benefits, and that number increases to 57% of Millennials and 67% of Generation Z (which is important to note when you consider that these two generations comprise nearly half of the workforce).

Additionally, 40% of workers are more likely post-pandemic to consider accepting a job with a new company that offers better benefits, and 32% say that employee benefits are as important to them as salary.

Common communication mishaps

It’s all too easy for your client’s employee benefits communications materials to become ineffective. Years roll by, materials become obsolete, and how workers want to receive information changes rapidly.

Here are some common benefits communications concerns clients may be experiencing:

  • Outdated benefits materials: Between plan details changing and branding updates, benefits materials quickly become out of date.
  • Low information retention: Oftentimes, clients will compress all benefit information into one email or presentation that employees simply skim.
  • Irregular or insufficient contact: While communications during open enrollment season are critical, your client’s workers likely need assistance more than once a year (they may receive new prescriptions, have unexpected emergency room visits, or need to navigate medical bills).

There’s a good chance that your client’s employees feel the impact of insufficient benefits communications. One-third of workers report knowing nothing about or not fully understanding their health coverage, and 62% don’t feel they can turn to their employers with health-related questions. This presents an opportunity for clients to share information, tools, and resources to enable their employees to make sensible benefit decisions, especially during open enrollment. And brokers, with the help of the benefits and human resources (HR) experts at a professional employer organization (PEO), can simplify that process.

5 tips for client communication success

Benefit communication methods are always in flux, and as a broker, you can provide tremendous value to your clients by keeping them informed on the latest best practices. The following five tips can enable them to boost benefit engagement and enrollment, manage their costs, and attract and retain talent.

1. Personalize

Today’s workforce is multigenerational, and with that diversity comes a variety of communication and benefit preferences. Clients must send different messages to different employees to show they can cater to a mixed workforce.

According to a study from Notre Dame University, Baby Boomers prefer to speak in person or on the phone, Generation X prefers email or instant messaging, and Generation Z prefers face-to-face conversation at work. No matter the communication channel – an in-office meeting, virtual presentation, email series, etc. – each message should contain a friendly greeting including the employee’s name to make the message more personal.

In addition to disbursing information across multiple channels, clients should also keep an updated master list of benefits in a common place, such as on the company intranet or a common Microsoft Teams channel. This list should also include up-to-date plan details as well as a point of contact whom employees can reach out to with questions or concerns.

Personalization is also important for clients to keep in mind when choosing their benefit offerings. Each generation tends to have different priorities and should be catered to slightly differently. Top benefits by generation are as follows:

  • Baby Boomers: Identity theft protection, flexible hours, financial planning, and fitness perks
  • Generation X: Flexible hours, fitness perks, student loan assistance, and financial planning
  • Millennials: Flexible hours, fitness perks, student loan assistance, and tuition reimbursement
  • Generation Z: Student loan assistance, financial planning, and employee assistance programs (EAPs)

2. Say less, more often

Clients should break their employee benefit communications into digestible, bite-size chunks rather than sending one long email during open enrollment season.

Ideally, emails should contain only 50-125 words and a clear call-to-action (CTA). Shorter messages don’t mean less impact, however. Open rates for messages in shorter emails that are part of a multi-message drip campaign are approximately 80% higher than standalone emails, and average click-through rates are about three times higher.

In addition to focusing on communication during open enrollment season, clients should make year-round messaging a priority. Quarterly email campaigns can remind employees about available benefits and encourage usage. For example, something may have changed in a worker’s life and a once-irrelevant benefit could now provide great value. Clients can also schedule benefits communications in alignment with any new benefit offerings or promotions during the year, so employees have ongoing reminders about the benefits at their disposal.

3. Always be clear, current, and actionable

A long wall of text is asking for employees to tune it out. Instead, clients should ensure their benefits communications are simple, updated, and compelling.

Messages should use basic language and be free of HR jargon and acronyms. These unfamiliar terms coupled with detailed plan descriptions can make it very difficult for your clients’ employees to understand.

Messages should also clearly and promptly explain what’s in it for the employee and include a strong CTA so that employees know what steps they can or should take. Clients should also ensure benefits-related materials are up to date before sharing them.

4. Adapt communications for a hybrid world

More people than ever work either completely remote or on a hybrid schedule. To accommodate this change, clients should ensure benefits-related meetings are accessible for in-office, hybrid, and remote employees.

Incorporating virtual attendance into benefits meetings could be the right answer and may look like a completely virtual meeting or an in-person meeting with remote workers videoconferencing in. Some tips for these meetings include:

  • Have a designated place or person for people to ask questions
  • Keep the presentation as concise as possible
  • Record the meeting and share it with all employees afterward
  • Demo any potentially complicated processes during the meeting
  • Incentivize attendance with giveaways
  • Prepare and rehearse for the meeting one week beforehand

5. Embrace feedback

Communication is a two-way process, and clients should listen to their employees’ feedback on their benefits and communications. This feedback can enable clients to improve future benefits communications campaigns and tweak benefits packages to better cater to their unique staff.

To gather this valuable feedback, clients can send out employee pulse surveys to dive deeper into what’s useful to their workers and what’s not. Clients may also host an anonymous suggestion box on their intranet or in their office, allowing employees to provide feedback on current benefits and communication methods.

A wealth of benefits expertise at your fingertips

Although vital during open enrollment season and beyond, constantly staying on top of benefits communications strategies can be cumbersome. Partnering with a PEO is a low-effort way for brokers to strengthen their portfolio and retain their book of business.

A PEO has in-house experts that stay on the pulse of industry trends – employee benefits communication and beyond. PEOs, like ExtensisHR, also provide the following services that brokers may offer to their clients:

  • HR: HR guidance, payroll management, tax administration, recruiting, and talent management
  • Benefits: Expert consultations and simplified benefit management and enrollment
  • Risk and compliance: Comprehensive compliance expertise on risk management and workplace safety, state unemployment, workers’ compensation, and more
  • Technology: A mobile-first HRIS that allows clients to quickly run custom reports and employees to review and enroll in benefits from anywhere, at any time

The time is now for brokers to provide clients with the benefits communication tips that can help them succeed year-round. Contact the experts at ExtensisHR to get started today.

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