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September 14, 2020

How to Digitally Keep Employees Connected to Their Benefits

COVID-19's impact on technology utilization.

There’s no denying that COVID-19 has us relying on technology even more than before. And we know that employee benefits communications, including open enrollment, must now primarily be digital as a result of increasingly remote workforces and social distancing rules. So, how can employers most effectively reach their audiences and keep their employees connected to their benefits using technology?

Assess Your Audiences

As you’re thinking through ways to connect with your employees and how to get their attention, start with analyzing your audiences. When you look at the different groups within your organization, you must understand the nuances of each. 

Begin this exercise by breaking down all of your audiences and then map out what actions you ultimately want them to take. Also ask yourself . . . What are their needs? What are folks struggling with in their lives? How do they like to be communicated with? What types of messaging do they understand best? How do we match communications to connect with them in a meaningful way?

In the past, you may have had some go-to benefits communication vehicles; however, you’re likely going to have to change things up to best reach each of your different audiences in today’s environment.

Multigenerational Communications

Before jumping into to selecting a technology, understanding that all employees, regardless of which generation they belong to, have communication preferences will empower your team to create an adaptive benefits communications plan. In short:

  • Baby Boomers prefer a phone call for important information but will also accept email
  • Gen X prefers email over phone calls
  • Millennials prefer mail and email
  • Gen Z prefers face-to-face communication, even if it must be virtual

3 Ways to Connect with Your Audience

  1. Provide on-demand content.

This year, employers can’t rely on in-person communication, which may result in an overwhelming number of phone calls. Methods like benefits guides, webinars and posters inform employees about their options but don’t significantly reduce calls. To respond to this need, consider the following on-demand options:

  • Benefits Website – This is a robust, highly efficient option. It’s a year-round resource for employees to access all of the information they need. Key features include:
    • One-stop shop for benefits information
    • Links to all carriers and providers
    • Simple 24/7 access for employees and family members
    • Valuable resource for recruiting and new hires
  • Benefits FAQs Page – Even if your open enrollment communications plan is perfectly executed, employees are going to have questions. An easy-to-digest Benefits FAQ webpage (or trackable attachment) is a great place for employees to turn before asking HR for help.
  • Virtual Open Enrollment Hub – Designate a single place on your intranet for employees to view materials. Plan to launch this resource several weeks ahead of open enrollment. Include a welcome video from senior leadership; focus on the message and empathy rather than production quality.
  • Calendar Tool – This allows employees to book time slots with your HR staff. You control the volume of appointments per day; therefore, your HR staff will not be overwhelmed. Additionally, employees will know the exact length of the session, allowing them to prioritize questions and respect the time limit.
  • 1:1 Video Meetings – Encourage 1:1 video meetings between employees and your on-staff HR team, giving them the personal touch that many desire. Ask your vendors or third-party benefit coaches to conduct meetings through video chat, as well.
  • Chatbots – A chatbot asks specific questions and provides canned, but detailed, responses. They can lead employees to the exact benefit program recommended for their situation, including a hand off to the vendor or a website. If the employee needs more information, the chatbot quickly engages a live benefits team member. Ensure that your chatbot vendor is HIPAA-compliant and that you have confidentiality clauses with them.
  1. Help employees make better decisions.

Employees make better decisions about their benefits when they’re provided guidance and education, including:

  • Benefits Decision Support Tool – A credible, interactive software powered by claims data that clearly and quickly guides them to a personalized recommendation
  • Educational Materials - One of the best educational tools is video. The statistics are solid – 1 minute of video is equal to 1.8 million words; 75% of employees are more likely to watch a video than read a benefits guide; and video generates 4 to 7 times higher engagement than static content.
  • Virtual Benefits Fair – The keys to a successful virtual benefits fair are 1) use simple technology; 2) make it fun; 3) keep it brief; and 4) leverage vendors.
  1. Ensure mobile communication is part of your strategy.

Mobile is the go-to resource to anchor the employee experience and reach them any time, any place. There are many mobile channels, including:

  • Text Messaging – People love their mobile devices, and text/SMS open rates (around 98%) tend to perform far better than email. The keys steps of successful text campaign are:
    • Pick a platform
    • Ask permission
    • Keep it short
    • Include a call to action (CTA)
    • Measure your impact
  • Mobile Benefits App – This may be the cutting-edge tool you need to improve your ROI while keeping your workforce engaged and informed. Using a quality app can: 
    • Make benefits information more accessible
    • Increase engagement
    • Boost employee retention
    • Consolidate data to contain costs

Track & Measure Engagement

As with any good communication strategy, be sure to track, measure, analyze and solicit feedback. Use key performance indicators (KPIs) such as viewer-engagement tracking, video-viewing stats, clicks per view, average time on content, etc. All of this information will show you where you are doing well and where there is room for improvement.

A more effective digital communications plan for benefits can help increase employee retention and engagement, save money (vs. print materials and in-person meetings), and give HR and benefit provider resources a needed break from repetitive calls and emails.

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