The bar for HR communication has historically been set pretty low. Fifteen years ago, confusing, one-size-fits-all content was the status quo — an annoying but inevitable fact of corporate life.
In 2018, this is no longer the case. Employees now expect better messaging from their employers because they’re so accustomed to convenient, personalized user experiences.
They can Google answers to complicated questions in a matter of seconds. They can selectively subscribe to news feeds to ensure they only get the stories that interest them. They can buy nearly anything with a click of a button, and algorithms can tell them what they want to buy (and sometimes they’re creepily accurate). Even when people go offline, brick-and-mortar stores like Apple and Starbucks offer this same level of white-glove treatment in-person.
These rising expectations may feel daunting to employers. Companies like Google and Amazon have access to big data, in-house marketing teams and a small army of user experience designers. Many employers don’t have the same resources.
But there are still some valuable business-to-consumer techniques that they can employ, even with limited resources. Here are three tweaks that employers or the vendors employers use can make to create more user-friendly education and enrollment experiences.
- Make Personalization a Top Priority
People like to be treated like the special individuals they are and hate having their time wasted on stuff that doesn’t apply to them.
The better job a company does in tailoring their benefits guidance to the individual needs of employees, the more engaged these employees will be, and the smarter their choices will be. Here are a few ideas:
- Address employees directly with the word “you.” Always remember that your messages are being read one person at a time.
- In printed content, organize information by employee group so that each employee can focus on what applies to them and ignore the rest.
- Offer an alternative to weeding through benefits guides or cherry-picking advice from big presentations. Try providing an interactive decision support tool that asks them about their unique situation and gives them reliable, tailored guidance.
- Make Your Messaging Timely and Relevant
The best online customer experiences anticipate users’ needs. Their homepages immediately answer pressing questions. Pop-up windows appear just when users find themselves wanting more information. Spa coupons arrive just a week before Mother’s Day, and, well, it would be wrong not to use them, right?
Proactive and savvy benefits teams can boost employee engagement (and action) by taking a similar right-time, right-place approach to messaging.
The key is starting from the employees’ point of view, instead of focusing only on what the company wants to communicate. The benefits team could randomly pick, for example, February for Financial Wellness Month and cross their fingers for engagement. Or it could strategically reach out during the times of the year employees will be most focused on their finances, like after annual salary reviews or individual promotions, or in the weeks after April 15th when tax refunds (or bills) are on their mind.
- Style Points Matter
Behavioral science studies show that people absorb more information and make better decisions when they’re not stressed out. So it’s no coincidence that the websites and stores they enjoy the most have a clean, inviting layout that’s easy to navigate.
The same principles apply to benefits messaging. Employers should devote just as much time to the layout as they do to the copy, be thoughtful in their use of images, anticipate when employees will have questions, and present that information accordingly. They should also resist the urge to dump everything on employees at once and instead parcel out information into multiple, digestible communications. Providing links to bonus content can help out employees that want to learn more.
Also, whenever employers ask employees to take an action, they should make it as easy as possible for them to do so right away. The gap of time between understanding a choice and making that choice should be as small as possible. The smaller the gap, the more motivated employees will be to act, and the happier they’ll be with their choices.
If incorporating marketing and design principles into content sounds like more work, that’s because it is. But the rewards are huge. When a company gives its employees a uniquely helpful, user-friendly benefits experience, those employees not only appreciate their benefits more, they also appreciate their employer more and are more likely to stick around.
Helen Calvin is the chief revenue officer at Jellyvison. Comment below or email firstname.lastname@example.org.