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3 Ways for Companies to Make Benefits Communication Relevant

Helping employees become more 'informed consumers' of benefits and get more from their company's benefits package will make them more likely to stay in their job, and improve their performance

Today, employees receive more messages through more channels, and have shorter attention spans (tiered paywall) than ever before.

This is as true of the communication they receive on the benefits available to them as any other company message they get. And it’s likely to get worse: companies are offering more and new kinds of benefits, and employees are opening only one-in-five benefits messages they receive.

As companies invest bigger sums in the benefits they offer (tiered paywall), they want their compensation and benefits teams to demonstrate the value of the benefits on offer to employees, and make employees “informed consumers” of their benefits.

The Power of Relevant Communications

Because employees are on the end of so many company communications, well-meaning employee benefits teams are trying to send communication through more different channels and to more highly segmented groups of employees.

Many tend to focus on the latest channels, like smartphone apps, to capture attention and others send benefits information to employees based on demographic segments. The problem is that those using the latest channels often fail to tailor the content to that medium, and those carving the employee population into new demographic slices tend to end up sending some employees receiving inapplicable messages because the team has made bad assumptions about that employee.

Both benefits teams and employees acknowledge that these approaches are ineffective. In fact, just 33% of benefits teams believe that their communications successfully encourage employees to be informed consumers of their benefits, and only 26% of employees believe that plans are relevant to them, according to CEB data.

But if they can get it right, benefits teams can improve employees’ perceptions of their total rewards package that can lead to some powerful results: a 10.8% increase in employee intent to stay and a 5.4% increase in employee performance, according to CEB analysis.

Three Steps to Take

To improve their communications, benefits teams should focus on making the messages more relevant, which they can achieve by personalizing the content, the way it’s delivered, and the source it comes from.

  1. Communicate the intent of benefits offerings through themes: When employees understand the intent of their benefits offerings, their perceptions of their rewards package increase by 17.6%.

    Verizon Communications, Inc. is one company that communicates the intent of its offerings. Verizon selects monthly lifestyle or health topics based on employees’ desire to be healthier, what employees care about at the time of year, and how Verizon can provide that through employees’ more informed use of their benefits. Monthly themes inform when and how Verizon communicates about the benefits in its package.

  2. Emphasize channels that simulate a “human touch”: Live meetings are the most effective way to change employees’ perceptions and are popular among employees, but they are not widely available or easy to offer to everyone (remote workers for example).

    E-mail and web portals offer a much bigger opportunity for companies to communicate benefits information, as they also affect employees’ perceptions, are offered by the majority of companies, and are frequently used by employees.

    Equifax, a consumer credit reporting agency, uses its “rewards portal” to help employees self-serve to get the benefits they want. Equifax works backward from employees’ experiences to improve the portal’s accessibility, navigation, and design.

  3. Give groups outside HR targeted roles to broaden the reach of communication: Managers are the most popular source of benefits information for employees after HR, but have greater impact on employee perceptions of rewards than HR does, according to CEB analysis.

    Equifax makes it easier for managers to play a role communicating benefits to employees, involving managers by providing them with concise information and clear directions.

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