As you’re gearing up to drop some serious benefits knowledge on your employees during open enrollment this year, keep this in mind: Everyone learns differently.

According to psychologist Neil Fleming, there are four primary ways we take in—and process—information. He breaks those four ways down with the acronym VARK*:

V is for Visual: Those who learn best by seeing pictures and images
A is for Auditory: Those who learn best by hearing information (in person or in a recording)
R is for Read/Write: Those who learn best by reading something and/or writing a response to something they’ve read
K is for Kinesthetic: Those who learn best by actually doing the thing they’re learning about

What this means for HR pros like you is simple: If your messaging leans heavily on one or two types of communication and skimps on the others…you’re not getting the biggest bang for your buck.

So! As you’re hashing out your benefits communication strategy, give yourself a better shot at getting through to your entire workforce by either enhancing your existing communications OR choosing new communication channels.

Appealing to Visual Learners:

• Use an easy-to-digest chart or infographic to present information you’d normally write out
• Add surprising, memorable images to your PowerPoint presentations
• Include a GIF or two in your benefits emails…they won’t necessarily help your visual learners learn better, but will grab their attention!

Appealing to Auditory Learners:

• Record and share your webinars (as opposed to simply making your webinar presentation deck available to employees who couldn’t attend)
• Schedule office hours during which employees can ask you questions face to face
Run benefits meetings with plenty of time for Q&A

Appealing to Reading/Writing Learners

Make the language in all of your writing-heavy content (ex. emails, benefits guides, and presentation slides) easier to digest by:

• Being concise
• Avoiding jargon
• Using bulletpoints (like these right here)
• Breaking long sentences into a few shorter sentences
• Putting content you want to highlight in a sidebar or call-out box
• Creating and sharing FAQs that use plain English

Appealing to Kinesthetic Learners

Create simple how-to videos with your smartphone that depict someone actually accomplishing a complicated benefits-related task
• If you’re introducing a new online benefits tool, let employees give it a test drive by making tablets or computers available at your benefits fair and during your office hours
• When explaining how to use certain benefits, share a variety of employee scenarios to provide a sense of the actual experience of using those benefits

Appealing to All Four Learning Types at Once:

Look into interactive benefits decision support tools that:

• Feature side-by-side charts, illustrations and animations (appealing to visual learners)
• Feature very simple on-screen benefits explanations and an engaging virtual host that talks directly to employees (appealing to reading/writing-focused learners AND auditory learners)
• Allow an employee to actively answer questions and make choices by pressing buttons and entering information on their computer, tablet or phone, at their preferred pace (appealing to kinesthetic learners)


*There’s been some debate about how scientifically valid these categories are. Regardless, we think the main thrust of the theory—to keep in mind that not all people learn the same way—is useful for anyone trying to put together a successful messaging campaign.