Just as most of us prefer reading a smart person’s summary of something complicated rather than the complicated thing itself, most employees–when it comes to getting benefits emails from HR–want their most pressing questions answered as clearly and quickly as possible.
Here are six tips on how to pull that off, whether writing’s one of your talents or not.
1. Write the way you talk
Need to explain something sort of complicated about your company’s benefits in an email? Don’t just recycle the language your insurance company uses. Do your very best to translate any and all legalese or jargon into language you’d use when explaining something to a friend.
Not great: “Beyond the basic benefit, both individual and spouse buy-up options are available.”
Way better: “The company is going to buy some life insurance for you. If you want, you can buy extra for your and your partner.”
2. Use the word ‘you’
“You” truly is a powerful word. When we see it on the page, we think: ‘Hey, they’re talking to me!’ And we perk up.
So instead of talking about your employees in the third person, address them directly. For example, instead of writing “All employees without dependents need to do fill out this form,” write “If you don’t have any dependents, you need to fill out this form.”
3. Break up information into easy-to-scan sections
Your email could contain the most well-written and helpful content in the history of benefits emails, but if you’ve laid out the information in a dense block of text, many employees are going to bail before finishing it.
So don’t skimp on white space—and use headers to separate information by topic or the sub-group of employees it’s meant for.
4. Be as concise as possible
Nobody sets out be long-winded or overly wordy on purpose, but it can happen to the best of us, even so, if you know what I mean and understand what I am saying.
Therefore: every time you draft an important email to send to your company, schedule in 5-10 minutes of editing time. Remove anything repetitive. Ask yourself if less important stuff could go in a P.S. section. Challenge yourself to cut at least 5 unnecessary words. Lastly, run the email past a colleague for a second read, to see if you’ve hit (or missed) the mark.
5. Be strategic about your bullet points
Bullet points are your friends–but you probably know that already. Something you might not know? Studies show that people tend to remember the first and last bullet points more than the stuff in the middle. So keep that in mind when you’re deciding how to order your bulleted content.
6. Consider using humanizing examples
Trying to explain how a new health plan might, say, affect people who use a lot of health care versus people who generally don’t? Or trying to show the positive effects of a certain program?
Give your content a human face. Explain how the new plan will affect a fictional guy named Joe–a high-volume health care user–versus how it will affect a fictional woman named Josie, a woman who uses very little. Ask employees if they’re willing to give a testimonial about how a certain program helped them–and put their smiling face beside their testimony.
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