Can Benefits Communication Help to Engage Employees Throughout the Year?

Employee Benefits

Can Benefits Communication Help to Engage Employees Throughout the Year?

Many companies treat annual enrollment as their “Superbowl” of benefits communication. They spend most of their time and money on a one-time opportunity to capture attention—thinking it’s their best chance to capitalize on the focus of employees and family members who are faced with an often-complex set of health care plan decisions.

This year, many of our clients took the opportunity to change their tactics and use annual enrollment to launch a new approach to a year-round benefits communication experience for employees. Across varying industries and geographies, we saw five key approaches to the most effective strategies when creating a year-round communications plan:

  1. Taking a Page from Marketing. Leaning into their external brands, organizations who create compelling internal benefits brand identities help to convey a story about their benefits value proposition and bring programs to life in a way that is aligned with culture. Brand identities also help to visually reinforce the human element of benefits through dynamic imagery or illustration.
  2. Keeping it “Edutaining.” Benefits education can be heavy. Benefits marketing, on the other hand, can be dynamic and engaging when we combine education with entertainment. Reducing the reading level to improve accessibility is a start, but organizations that push further with simplified, bite-sized information delivered through interactive media—such as visual emails and quick-hit videos—see increased awareness across their workforce. For instance, launching a mobile-responsive email design can increase unique mobile clicks by 15%.1
  3. Meeting People Where They Are. To truly capture attention, we must deliver relevant information in the right place at the right time to the right people. For example, text messages are opened five times more than email. In fact, 98% of text messages are read within two minutes compared to 20% of emails.2 To help increase the likelihood that employees and family members watch a video, read a newsletter or visit a site, send it to their phone. It is also important to consider where people spend their time. Is a large segment of the population based in a physical location? If so, leverage break rooms, bathrooms, kitchens, elevators and other spaces employees are more likely to notice information.
  4. Making it Personal. Today, most organizations have diverse workforces—spanning generations, family status, lifestyles, life stages, socioeconomic realities and more—and benefits are not one-size-fits-all. A great way to help improve communications is with storytelling and including personas or “people like me” in materials to bring benefits to life by connecting them to relatable human needs and interests. Using available HRIS and benefits administration data, organizations can take personalization further through targeted messaging tailored more closely to individual needs.
  5. Gathering Employee Input. Perhaps one of the best ways to engage employees is to discover what they are interested in—along with when and where they want to hear about benefits. Build benefits communication questions into employee surveys, conduct focus groups with people managers to learn the questions they are most asked and meet with employee resource groups to receive guidance on relevant topics.

The good news is that organizations don’t have to tackle every approach at once. As you kick off a new well-being campaign early in 2023, try to infuse storytelling to describe your program. If you send out monthly benefit emails, introduce infographics to make them more visual. Add a new monthly poll or quiz to your benefits website to make it interactive. And don’t forget to measure the impact of your refreshed communications, so you can focus on the tactics that work for your unique populations.

1 MailChimp, 2021


Erika Illiano

Partner, Communication Practice Leader