It’s been nearly two years since the COVID-19 pandemic hit and turned the world upside down. Businesses across all industries were forced to stretch themselves, rapidly evolving to manage unforeseen and unprecedented challenges.
For employee benefits brokers and HR managers and leaders, one test that quickly rose to the surface revolved around communication. Brokers and HR departments were simultaneously managing new work-from-home policies and juggling concerns among clients or employees while being looked to for answers surrounding employee benefits.
Although employee benefits communication has and will continue to be critical, the COVID-19 pandemic compelled leaders to quickly examine and rectify gaps. Benefits communication is a balancing act for brokers and employers alike–and a challenge that will continue to evolve in the years to come.
For many employers and brokers, conversations surrounding employee benefits occur most often during the open enrollment season. Although open enrollment is an undoubtedly critical time, without a strong year-round communication strategy, both employers and brokers limit their opportunities to drive value and reinforce connection.
Mployer Advisor Content Marketing Lead Abbey Dean recently moderated a webinar with Edward Sanchez, the Director of Communication and Engagement at Selerix Systems Inc., and Aaron Eaton, the Director of Sales for Employee Health and Benefits at Marsh McLennan Agency.
Here are some highlights from the insightful panel discussion.
1. Communication about employee benefits is critical–not just a “nice to have.”
A sound communication strategy sounds simple enough in theory, but Eaton said that most employers fail to consider how a company’s ROI could be adversely affected if communication isn’t a priority.
“If you think financially about every corporation and every employer out there, 30% of their capital outlay is employee benefits,” Eaton said. “That's 30%, and that's quite a bit of money. If they're not dedicating some type of communications to this large spend, then they're completely missing an area where they're just jetting money. So, it’s extremely important to communicate about benefits more than just once per year.”
Sanchez agreed. “Quite simply, a consistent communication strategy about benefits is going to educate the workforce,” he said. “That’s the end goal, right? We want employees to properly utilize those benefits, and everyone wants their medical spend to go down. But the only way you can do that is through education and a consistent communication strategy is so important in order to accomplish that.”
2. Measure for success.
When discussing pain points around employee benefits communication, the group focused on the importance of developing metrics for success.
“I used to have a boss who told me don't communicate anything unless you can measure an outcome,” Sanchez said. “Don't just communicate for the sake of communicating. Beyond just basic metrics like open rates or click rates, you have to be able to tie that communication to a behavior change. And if you can't do that, then you're never going to see if you’ve met your goals.”
Later in the webinar, expanding on the point above, Sanchez said: “You can develop the best communication strategy on earth, but if you develop it and then put it on a shelf somewhere it is never going to work.”
3. Be empathetic.
There was some crossover toward the end of the webinar when discussing best practices for brokers and employers. Eaton, specifically, noted the importance of practicing empathy–an essential lesson learned over the past 19 months.
“I used to be this fast-talker, hard-nosed broker focused on the bottom line and making companies great,” Eaton said. “Then, half the world was suddenly in jeopardy of losing their job or potentially losing their loved ones."
"Communication needs to be empathetic," Eaton continued. "You need to meet people where they are. The metaphor would be to ‘slow down and smell the roses,’ and that's very true when it becomes a benefits communication. We spend more time at work than we do with our own family, and your work family becomes an extension of your family–so there needs to be a certain level of empathy and sympathy.”
Eager to learn more? Click here to watch our free, on-demand webinar for best practices surrounding employee benefits communication for brokers and employers.