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It's Time for a Benefits Communication Makeover

by Nayya Marketing May 31, 2024

The traditional way of communicating a company’s employee benefits to their workforce typically looks something like this: a 30-page benefits booklet that no one reads and a once-a-year Open Enrollment campaign with a flurry of emails that no one opens. Or if they do, they click out immediately due to the length or seeming lack of relevance. Discouraging, no?

Is it any wonder that employee benefits satisfaction reached a 10 year low in 2023?¹ It shouldn’t be, given the staggering lack of awareness and knowledge about benefits in general, and in particular, how you can get the most value or savings from them. Consider the following dismal facts:

  • 92% of Americans don’t leverage most preventative care measures.²
  • 91% of Americans don’t understand these four basic health insurance terms: premium, deductible, coinsurance, and out-of-pocket maximum.³
  • 80% of employees never open benefits communications at all.⁴
  • 64% of employers only communicate about benefits during Open Enrollment.⁵
  • 49% of employees don’t understand their benefits in general.⁶
  • 26% of Millennials would rather clean a toilet than research their health benefits.⁷
  • 12% of US adults have proficient health literacy—meaning, the skills to process, understand, and act on health information to make appropriate choices.⁸

It’s clear that something has to change if employers expect to attract and retain talent based on the value of their benefits package. Because let’s face it—that intended value is only helpful for recruitment and retention if it’s actually realized, which is not happening in far too many cases. But how do you educate employees about their benefits without it feeling generic or overly complex?

Pivoting from HR communications to human solutions

Put yourself in the mindset of a busy employee. No one has much time for HR communications, and if it’s not something pressing, they’re likely to skip it. But they do like hearing about solutions to their actual day-to-day problems. (And in general, they like hearing about themselves. Who doesn’t?) That’s why at Nayya, we look at benefits communications as helping employees solve their life problems.

Employees like to be treated as humans with unique needs, worries, and preferences. They’re dealing with specific concerns and stressors at every stage of life, from cost-of-living pressures to growing a family to managing chronic conditions. They want to receive benefits that will fit within their budget while helping them cope with various pain points. So for example, instead of just telling employees what something is, tell them about the potential savings and how it makes their money go further.

In other words, make sure you emphasize the benefits of your benefits. How do they make life easier or better? Real-world examples are especially effective. So when possible, collect and share stories of employees who’ve saved big or dramatically improved their physical or mental health as vivid proof of how your benefits are providing meaningful solutions. That’s something people won’t forget.

And if you’re still uncertain how to make your benefits communications more solution-oriented, here’s a good rule of thumb. Simply answer this question: “What’s in it for me?” If you know that answer, you can send the right message to the right people at the right time, which is the key to everything when it comes to benefits communications. Because solutions are great, but timely solutions are the best of all.

How to communicate in a more human way

At Nayya, we specialize in driving benefits engagement with digital-first user experiences that deliver hyper-relevant recommendations at scale. Our targeted awareness-building communications come before, during, and long after Open Enrollment, because a good benefits communications strategy should not be contained to a single week or two.

Benefits literacy and plan adoption should be ongoing goals, as far as we’re concerned. And we’ve proven as much with our data-driven content, skilled audience management, and successful enrollment outcomes. Case in point: groups who use Nayya-led enrollment emails see a 280% increase in benefits utilization compared to those who don’t.⁹

So what are some of the best practices we’ve developed along the way? Here are our three stages for next-leveling your benefits communications, along with a host of tips and ideas:

Level 1

  • Personalize your communications. This is probably the lowest-hanging fruit, but not one to overlook, given that we’ve found that just including a person’s first name in the subject line of your email can increase open rates by up to 40%. So yes, it’s worth the effort.
  • Keep it brief, with a strong call to action. Write the email. Then shorten it. Also, what exactly are you asking people to do? We’ve found that our click-through rate increased by 67% when we eliminated unnecessary language and made our calls to action clearer.
  • Employ a scannable email format. That means bite-size blocks, bullets or checklists, callout quotes, visual aids like charts or graphs, and other elements that make it easy to digest the email without having to think too hard or piece together information.
  • Lower the reading level and avoid jargon. Consider writing to a 5th to 8th grade reading level and using online tools to confirm you’ve done so. Also, translate jargon and acronyms into layman’s terms, such as explaining that an out-of-pocket maximum is the most you’ll pay in a given year.

Level 2

  • Segment your audience. The demographic data that employers already have on hand can help drive higher engagement—but it’s rarely used. An example of a light lift would be using age data to highlight benefits more likely to be relevant to various age brackets, such as:
    • Fertility benefits for those in their 30s and 40s
    • Annual colorectal cancer screenings for those over 45
    • Medicare information for those approaching eligibility
  • Communicate year-round. Open Enrollment is once a year, but life is constantly happening. Some of your best opportunities to reach employees occur when they’re actually experiencing certain challenges, allowing you to offer timely or seasonal solutions. Examples include:
    • Touting physical therapy benefits after employees participate in a local marathon
    • Talking about allergies and how you can get help with them during the springtime
    • Encouraging skin cancer screenings at the dermatologist in the summer months
    • Reminding employees about annual flu shots and other free vaccines in fall or winter
    • Surfacing savings opportunities on holidays that are associated with sales and discounts
  • Gather feedback and case studies. To avoid email fatigue, find out how often employees would like to receive benefits communications. Other good survey questions: are employees using their benefits, do they know what’s on offer, and do they have any advice or success stories?

Level 3

  • Use individualized data to drive messaging. This is the highest level of personalization, and you’ll likely need specialized technology to achieve it. But if you do, you’ll be able to send a specific message to a specific person based on their recent life events. Nothing is more relevant.
  • Collect data from employee benefits tools. A decision support tool like Nayya Choose captures an incredible amount of information specific to each employee, such as family planning, chronic conditions, income level, and favorite providers. This data can then be used to highlight the benefits that would be most helpful to the employee.
  • Go multi-channel. It’s time to think beyond the inbox, especially for employees who still aren’t opening emails. From TikTok videos to Slack channels to text messaging, explore other ways to meet these employees where they are and then track the impact on engagement and utilization.

Get everyone galvanized with our eye-opening infographic

Ready to start rethinking your employee benefits communications? For motivation, we suggest you download our infographic of everything that’s currently wrong with the employee benefits landscape, so that you can easily demonstrate to your team, corporate leadership, and others why change is not only necessary, but imperative.

Download infographic

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¹ MetLife 21st Annual US Employee Benefit Trends Study (2023) ² National Library of Medicine (2020) ³ UnitedHealthcare Consumer Sentiment Survey (2017) ⁴ International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans Presentation (2021) ⁵ Inside Benefits Communications Survey Report (2014) ⁶ International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans Presentation (2021) ⁷ Aflac WorkForces Report (2015) ⁸ National Action Plan to Improve Health Literacy (2010) ⁹ Nayya Open Enrollment Analysis (2023)

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