Benefits & Compensation News

Benefits communication: 3 common — and costly — pitfalls

When employees don’t understand or fail to act on the benefits info their employers offer, there’s a good chance the overall communication strategy is suffering from some of these common mistakes.

Here are three benefits communication pitfalls to watch for, as well as proven ways to correct the problems, courtesy of the folks over at Benz Communications.

Mistakes to look for, improvements to make

1. Failure to document — and measure — your strategy. It may sound like common sense to commit your communication strategy to paper. But an alarming number of benefits pros fail to do so. In fact, just 22% of firms said they currently document their communication strategy, according to the “Inside Benefits Communication Survey.”

Documenting your goals is invaluable when it comes to determining what is and isn’t working. If you’re just starting out with this, identifying a few simple goals — e.g., increasing enrollment in a CDHP, bolstering the average 401k contribution rate — is fine. But eventually you’ll want your written strategy to be more sophisticated.

2. Not knowing your audience. This is a major problem for many benefits pros. Older employees have much different needs than twenty-somethings who have different needs than new parents. And it’s your job to get through to all of these groups. That may mean tailoring your info to a number of different groups. Example: Older employees may prefer their info in the form of handouts or even in-person education sessions, whereas younger employees may want everything electronically.

When it comes making sure everybody understands the info you’re presenting, here’s another effective approach: Grab one of your youngest staffers and ask him or her what does and doesn’t make sense about your benefits materials.

Reason: Twenty-somethings who just entered the workforce have likely been on their folks’ health plans until coming to your firm. That means they’re more likely to get confused about their benefits than other employees. So if your communications make sense to this group, chances are they’ll be easily understood by the rest of your employees.

3. Focusing too heavily on open enrollment. Open enrollment will always be the best time to hold staffers’ attention when it comes to benefits communication. But there are two huge mistakes many employers make when it comes to open enrollment:

  • Bombarding staffers with so much detailed info at once that they essentially tune out, and
  • Failing to follow-up throughout the year with their communication.

What works better: Covering the major plan changes during the open enrollment meeting(s), touching briefly on everything else and hosting a series of educational sessions on specific benefits topics (e.g., dental coverage, FSA usage, etc.) several times throughout the year.

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