News for HR Professionals


Keep the benefits conversation going

Now that another hectic open enrollment season has come and gone, you probably feel like breathing a sigh of relief and not thinking about it again until next year. Not so fast, though—while only 27 percent of employers communicate about benefits year-round, with an additional 43 percent communicating "a couple of times a year," it's a practice that can actually increase employee engagement and satisfaction. Here's how.

Why bother?

For starters, a significant number of employees wish you would: 31 percent report that they'd prefer to receive benefits communications more frequently than they do. In addition, some voluntary benefits, like pet insurance, are open for enrollment all year long. That means employees who don't know about them may miss out on needed coverage, especially if their family situation changes during the year.

Even when it comes to benefits that are only available during open enrollment, additional communication can help—studies from Aflac and LIMRA show that 93 percent of employees choose the same benefits year after year, and by the time the enrollment period starts, they've already decided to keep the same plan, mostly from inertia. By communicating when they're not under pressure to decide before a deadline, you can encourage them to make more informed choices that provide the best coverage for them and their families, four-leggers included.

Will it work?

According to a survey by the International Federation of Employee Benefit Plans, more than 78 percent of companies that have tried this strategy instead of communicating only during open enrollment report that it was successful, so the odds are in your favor. And, there's an advantage for you too: if employees are already familiar with benefits offerings thanks to ongoing communication, your next open enrollment season could go much more smoothly.

Get started

With more than 80 percent of employers reporting that participants don't open or read communication materials, communicating year-round is a great opportunity to repeat your message until they do, as well as to get creative about the way you communicate. Consider these strategies:

  • Go mobile— Especially for Millennials, traditional channels such as emails and printed materials may be less effective than text messages or other mobile communications. Meet them where they are to increase engagement.
  • Meet in person—In the Hollinger Scott Internal Communications Survey 2017, internal communications professionals ranked face-to-face meetings as the most important method of communication. Email came second, with intranet, video, on-site displays and print also making a showing.
  • Put fundamentals first—Misconceptions about products and confusion surrounding terminology are two big stumbling blocks for employees considering their benefit options. Clear these up, and all your communications will be more effective.

Enlist help

All this may seem like a daunting task, but your benefit vendors already may have done much of the work for you—for example, Nationwide ® offers plug-and-play wellness programs, infographics, emails and more to support your communications efforts. Reach out to your partners to ask what resources are available, and you could find yourself a long way down the road to success.