Let’s get back to basics.

If you’re reading this, you’re probably already communicating with your employees about their benefits. That’s great! Like anything in life, though, there’s probably some room for improvement. Let’s look at three common benefits communications tools – the benefits guide, the benefits presentation, and open enrollment emails – to see how you can make a good thing even better.

Make your benefits guide engaging, modern and easy to understand

Most companies have a benefits guide that’s written like a textbook. It reminds employees of college, and not in a good way. It also isn’t doing the job – 86% of employees are confused about their benefits, and 52% say choosing benefits is stressful.

There are other ways to provide benefits information – and we’ll discuss those later – but the benefits guide is an important all-in-one resource. Here are a few ways to make it better.

1. Digitize it. Paper benefits guides are a waste of resources, and they’re difficult to read. A PDF file or interactive landing page provides a more modern experience and is a lot easier to search. If employees are hard to reach – say, they don’t have a company email address or computer – then QR codes on break room posters or text messages can provide them with a link.

2. Put the most important information first. Employees shouldn’t have to get to page 57 to find out that you’re switching health plans. Use a “What’s New” section at the beginning of the guide to give employees a quick glance of benefits changes. From there, talk about benefits in order or importance: Health, dental and vision first, then short-term disability, then retirement savings and other financial benefits, and finally, voluntary benefits.

3. Repeat important points. That “What’s New” page shouldn’t be the only place where you highlight changes to your benefits program. Put that on the plan page and anywhere else it makes sense. And when it comes to open enrollment dates and deadlines, you can’t mention them enough: add them to the introduction, the conclusion, the “How to Enroll” page, and the plan page at a bare minimum.

4. Make it longer, but also easier to read. This applies to the benefits presentation, too (we’ll cover that in a bit), but the use of more pages with easy-to-read information (and graphics) is better than fewer pages that are full of text. A good rule of thumb is one big idea per page. Don’t worry if that means you end up having pages with a lot of white space – after all, you’re not printing hundreds of copies of the guide anymore.

5. Use real stories. Good content makes a connection with people. This is true for books, movies, and TV shows – and, yes, even your benefits guide. Employees are far more likely to pay attention when they hear directly from their coworkers about how their benefits helped them at difficult moments in their lives. Along with these personal stories, include photos of employees (with permission); employees will connect with their coworkers better than random stock photo models.

6. Break down the numbers. “How much will it cost?” is the question on every employee’s mind when it comes to benefits. Don’t just focus on premiums and deductibles, either. Take the time to lay out the cost of a hospitalization, and compare the expense of an in-network vs. out-of-network hospital. Show the benefits of investing in a health savings account (HSA) or taking advantage of a 401(k) match. Use graphs and other visualizations to illustrate the point, and use simple language so employees aren’t forced to Google several terms just to understand a single paragraph.

7. Outline the options. You’ll hear us say this a few times in this guide, but a one-size-fits-all approach to benefits selection won’t work. Every employee has a unique health situation, and the wrong benefits choice could be costly. Don’t just copy and paste that complicated grid listing the differences among the health plan options. Provide several different scenarios that describe common subsegments of your patient population – young, healthy, and single; planning to start a family; managing a chronic condition, and so on – and offer suggestions for the ideal benefits plan for each.

8. Make it part of your larger strategy. The benefits guide shouldn’t be the only benefits resource you provide employees. Smart HR leaders build a year-round benefits communication strategy that engages employees during key moments, like when they log into their HSA or 401(k) account, buy a prescription, or search for a doctor. Your benefits guide is only one piece of the puzzle! Which brings us to our next topic…

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