Dear Still Learning:
You have actually hit on a critical component to communicating employee benefits: highlight the key points. Because benefits are part of the employment deal, employees want to know what they are, what they are worth, and how to use them. Benefits information is compelling for what it means to the employee. Effective benefit communication relies on defining your goals, understanding your audience and sticking to those key messages. Let's look at some effective tactics in more detail.
First, keep the message simple. Benefits material must support all of your employees, who have a range of interests and knowledge. You want to make sure everyone gets the same information and they understand it. Some rules of thumb include:
Define your key messages and repeat them. Repetition aids understanding.
Use plain language. Benefits can be complicated and you'll want to avoid any confusion.
Use a conversational style. Benefits are personal and your message is better received if delivered in a casual manner.
Use an active voice. Engage your employees about their benefits.
When a benefits change occurs, explain why. Knowing the reason can help employees accept the change.
To personalize the value of benefits, you must make sure employees grasp your messages.
Second, select the media best suited to your message and audience. Paper documents are good for casual presentation of material. They can be shared with family members, who are also part of your benefits audience.
If available, also consider using online technologies such as your company intranet. These tools make it easier to keep benefits information up to date. Online communication can also be used for personalized messages. Consider a benefits-modeling tool if employees must make a choice. "What if" tools are a great way to create personal interest and communicate your key points: "What if I get married?" or "What if I contribute more to the savings plan?" are some simple examples.
Finally, if unpopular messages are part of your responsibility, use face-to-face meetings and get company leadership to join you. This can be an effective way to handle resentment and help change perceptions.
Effective benefit communication relies on the same rules as other communication. Determine what you wish to accomplish, define your audience, determine your points and develop a plan to deliver your messages. If you answer employees' questions about their benefits, and their value and access, you will know that you have succeeded.
SOURCE: Randy Tyson, director, personalized and electronic communications, Buck Consultants, Washington, D.C.
LEARN MORE: Please read The Disappearing Benefit, which examines the future of health coverage for retirees and those approaching retirement. Also, an article discusses how and why you might want to establish a benefits committee.
The information contained in this article is intended to provide useful information on the topic covered, but should not be construed as legal advice or a legal opinion. Also remember that state laws may differ from the federal law.
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