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.

Now, this is no longer the case. Employees expect better messaging from you because they’re so accustomed to convenient, personalized user experiences.

Think about it: 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 your HR team. Companies like Google and Amazon have access to big data, in-house marketing teams, and a small army of user experience designers. You probably don’t.

But there are still some valuable business-to-consumer techniques that you can employ, even with limited resources. Here are three tweaks that you (or your vendor pals) can make to create more user-friendly education and enrollment experiences.

#1. Make personalization a top priority

We humans like to be treated like the special individuals we are. Also, we hate having our time wasted on stuff that doesn’t apply to us.

So the better job you do in tailoring your benefits guidance to the individual needs of your employees, the more engaged they’ll be, and the smarter their choices will be. Here are a few ideas:

  • Address your 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.

#2. 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 you want to communicate. You could randomly pick, for example, February for Financial Wellness Month and cross your fingers for engagement. Or…you could strategically reach out during the times of the year your 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.

Check out this article on how better benefits communication can boost your chances of retaining your top talent. 

#3. Style points matter

Behavioral science studies show that we absorb more information and make better decisions when we’re not stressed out. So it’s no coincidence that the websites and stores we enjoy the most have a clean, inviting layout that’s easy to navigate.

The same principles apply to benefits messaging. Devote just as much time to the layout as you do to the copy, be thoughtful in your use of images, anticipate when employees will have questions, and present that information accordingly. You 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 who want to learn more.

Also, whenever you ask employees to take action, 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 your 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 you give your employees a uniquely helpful, user-friendly benefits experience, those employees not only appreciate their benefits more, they also appreciate your company more and are more likely to stick around.

This article was published in a slightly different form on

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