7 Steps to Communicating Benefits Like a Marketing Pro

OE 2018: 7-Steps to Communicating Benefits Like a Marketing Pro

As an HR leader, you know the formula to build an employee benefits strategy just like every other profession has its own set of formulas to follow for success. 

Let’s take architects, for example. When they’re commissioned to design a new building, they set out to accomplish one thing – a completed architectural plan that stays within budget and meets building codes. In order to achieve that plan, they’ve got to follow their formula. Starting with drawings, they then move on to the specifications of the design, work in the calculations of the plan and outline the time it will take to complete the building process. That’s their straightforward, but rough (admittedly, from someone who is decidedly not an architect) formula to reach their end goal.

But here’s where it gets tricky for the modern HR leader. You can’t just be an HR leader any longer. It’s not enough to build the best benefits strategy. Employees need you to help them make the connection between your stellar benefit offerings and how those benefits make sense for their individual lives.  

If not, your employees are in jeopardy of benefits confusion - likely resulting in benefits mismatch. And you, as an employer, are in jeopardy of losing your talent -- 72 percent of employees say a benefits package offering is extremely or very important to their job satisfaction, and 64 percent say it’s extremely or very important to their employer loyalty.1

But, on the bright side, 80 percent of employees agree that a well-communicated benefits package would make them less likely to leave their jobs.1

So, it’s time to get creative.  

You’ve got to think more like a marketer. By combining your HR expertise with marketing sophistication, you can build your own architectural blueprint for successful benefit communications.

Straight out of the marketing playbook, here is a seven-step formula you can apply to your open enrollment communications plan:

Step 1 – State Your Goal

Every project has a goal. Simply, when all is said and done, what do you want the outcome to be?

Put the specifics aside for now. Your goal should be a broad brush stroke focusing on the outcome for the entire workforce. When setting your goal, consider how your benefits meet employees' needs. Are you striving to have a healthy, happy workforce? Is your main goal to see employees in best-matched plans?

TIP: For an effective strategy, only state one goal.

Step 2 – Define Your Audience(s)

The composition of your workforce is unique to your company. It can vary depending on what industry you’re in or the distribution of age groups you have.

Whatever it may be, defining your audience(s) is of utmost importance for targeting your communication so that the message gets across.

TIP: When defining your audience, consider all of the different breakdowns: age breakdown, socioeconomic status, geographic distribution, full-time or part-time employees, etc.

Step 3 – Determine Your Objectives

Whereas your goal is a broad brush stroke, your objectives are where you start using the fine-tipped paint brush. Create objectives based on your desired outcome, but keep them SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-bound).

TIP: Limit objectives to the three or five you consider most important. It’s more manageable and increases your chances for success.

Step 4 – Consider Your Strategy, Tactics & Materials

Here’s where you get into the communication details. Try to answer each of the following questions: How will you lead employees to take action to reach your objectives? What communication channels will you use to support your approach? And what are all of the various materials you need to align with each communication channel?  

TIP: Consider all of the different communication channels you have available to reach your audience (i.e. email, flyers, posters, postcards, video, text messages, benefit fairs and social media).

Step 5 – Establish How You Will Evaluate

Remember those SMART objectives you determined in Step 3? Pull those back out and look at the measurable aspects of those objectives. For example, were you looking to increase adoption of high-deductible health plans by a certain percent? Use those metrics as part of your evaluation.

TIP: Don’t forget to include any enrollment milestones you may have set (i.e. a certain number of employees by a certain date).

Step 6 – Set Your Timeline

You could do all of the work outlining Steps 1-5, but if you don’t actually put it all into practice, then it could be all for nothing. Stay on track by setting a timeline.

Depending on the size of your audience(s) and objectives you’ve set, you could have multiple messages. Setting a comprehensive timeline can help you make sure you get those messages to the right audience at the right time.

TIP: Map out key communication milestones or specify the dates, times and communications you’ll send in an excel file, such as within these example. Whichever method you prefer is up to you, but don’t skip this important step!

Step 7 – Clarify Your Budget

You might read this and say, “What budget?” While this may not be in your control, it’s still an important step in the process. Consider the items in your communications plan that might have a related expense or any potential items you need to support your strategy. Then, build your budget!

TIP: Don’t forget to keep in mind items like printed materials, postage, video production costs and additional items like prices and incentives!

Now that you've got your seven-step marketing formula to support your OE communications strategy, the only thing left to do is take action! Get your own workbook outlining these seven steps with additional details, examples and guidance on creating your own master communications plan here!

1 Aflac Workforces Report