How to Create an Annual Communications Plan for Employee Benefit Programs

May 15, 2024
Annual Benefit Communications - How To

The value of employee benefits cannot be overstated. Yet, we often find that a disconnect exists between the benefits you provide and the employees’ understanding and appreciation of these benefits.

Creating an effective annual communications plan is a strategic approach to bridge this gap, ensuring that employees not only understand their benefits but also recognize their value.

Why Create a Communications Plan

Research indicates that a third of U.S. adults do not fully understand their health benefits, and 66% of employees desire more information about their benefits throughout the year (Voya Financial). This lack of understanding can lead to lower employee engagement, costing organizations significantly in terms of productivity and profitability.

An effective communications plan can turn this around by enhancing employee engagement, demonstrating care, boosting morale and ultimately contributing to a healthier, more productive workforce.

How to Build Your Communications Plan

Creating a communications plan that resonates with employees requires a thoughtful approach that considers the unique needs and preferences of your workforce.

Here’s how to get started:

1. Set Your Goals and Objectives

Begin by defining what you want to achieve with your communications plan. Objectives may include improving understanding of benefits, increasing employee engagement, or boosting benefits utilization.

Pro tip: Ensure your goals are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound (SMART).

2. Define Your Key Messages

Identify the core messages you want to convey. Focus on clarity and relevance, ensuring each message aligns with the overall objectives of your plan.

Pro Tip: Use jargon-free language to make the information accessible to all employees. Think about how you would explain your benefits to a 5th grader!

3. Identify Your Audience

Understanding your audience is crucial. Think about ways to tailor your messages effectively. You might begin by dividing your workforce based on department, location, or employee demographics.

Pro tip: Recognizing the diverse needs of your audience will help in crafting messages that resonate on a personal level.

4. Select Your Communication Channels

Choose the right channels to reach your audience effectively. Options may include email newsletters, intranet posts, webinars, or home mailers.

Pro tip: Consider the preferences and habits of your employees to select the most effective channels.

5. Create a Calendar

Develop a timeline for your communications, spacing out key messages to keep employees engaged throughout the year. This can occur quarterly, monthly or any other interval that makes sense for your workforce.

Pro tip: Avoid information overload by planning strategic release dates for different pieces of content.

6. Implement Segmentation and Personalization Strategies

Segmentation (grouping employees together by shared traits) and personalization (use data specific to an individual employees) can significantly enhance the impact of your communications. Use employee data to customize messages, addressing the specific needs and concerns of different segments within your workforce. This approach demonstrates empathy and understanding, fostering a stronger connection with your employees.

Pro tip: Answer the question “What’s In It For Me (the Employee)?” in all your communications. It’s science, actually!

Ways to Personalize and Segment Your Communications

When it comes to benefits communications, one size does not fit all. In fact, it’s almost guaranteed if you try to tell every employee everything about every benefit, your communications will fail to resonate with a large portion of your audience. It’s what we call benefits overload—and it’s all too common. Employees either completely miss what you wanted them to know, or worse, they fail to take action on important deadlines because they don’t understand what applies to them.

Here are a few ways you can start to break down your audience and target your communications:

By Connectivity

Tailor communications to address how employees receive information at work – are they wired (in front of a computer all day) or non-wired (working outside an office). You might need to consider different channels for each group.

By Demographic

Consider the life stages of your employees. Younger employees may be more interested in learning about maternity benefits or student loan repayment programs, while older employees might prioritize retirement planning and healthcare options.

By Utilization Rates 

Identify benefits that are underutilized and target communications to raise awareness about these offerings. Highlighting lesser-known benefits can help employees take full advantage of their benefits package. 

An annual communications plan is a powerful tool to enhance employee understanding and appreciation of their benefits! 

By setting clear goals, defining key messages, understanding your audience, selecting appropriate channels, and implementing personalization strategies, you can foster a more engaged and loyal workforce.  

And, you don’t have to go at it alone. We’ve developed a toolkit that leads you through this process, along with real-life examples in action and a template to get started. Or, send us a note at helloindy@westcomm.com – we are happy to help! 

How to Create an Annual Communications Plan for Employee Benefit Programs

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