Weight management is a popular wellness trend as the country deals with the health implications of obesity in our society. Similarly, benefits communications have become more and more bloated. Brokers need to help their clients communicate their benefits suite properly. Between the rollout of increasing complex benefit plans for companies and the growing number of government-required notices, it may be time for companies to lighten their benefits communications, and you, as brokers, can help.

Practice portion control

Effective benefits communications doesn’t have to be big. Generally, smaller, concentrated messages distributed on a more frequent basis are better absorbed than large amounts of information provided once or twice a year. Attention spans are short. Unless you create a document that reads like the latest best-selling novel, your client's employees are likely not to get to the end of a 20-page benefits guide. A better approach may be to break this document up into smaller communications that are distributed over time via different communication channels.

If you can’t avoid a large document, make sure the critical information and calls to action are at the beginning, not buried at the end.

Presentation is everything

It’s a digital world and a there are a wealth of social media tools in your communications arsenal: Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and more. Of course, traditional electronic media, such as email and company's Intranet, are still viable. The trick is to figure out what works best for your client, then take it up a notch. If email is the preferred distribution method for the client, consider enhancing  emails with graphics and links to the Intranet or other articles embedded within the email.

Consider developing an “opt in” campaign where the company collects cell phone numbers from employees. Having employees’ mobile phone numbers allows you to send text messages – a great way to send reminders or quick updates. Similarly, soliciting personal email addresses from employees who don’t have a company email gives you a way to reach these employees electronically. 

White space is not a waste of space

Resist the temptation to use every square inch of real estate on the page. Text-heavy pages are hard to read and are visually unappealing. No matter how compelling the messages, you can’t engage employees if they don’t read them. So, give your readers a break and limit or avoid pages of dense text.

Get back to basics

Those of us who work in the benefits community are quite comfortable with the jargon and acronyms of insurance and benefit programs. Employees, on the other hand, are not benefits experts. Most people know the meaning of terms such as “deductible” and “co-pay.” But more complex topics, such as consumer driven health plans and health savings accounts, can be confusing to a lay person. So make it easy for them by explaining things clearly and in words a non-benefits expert can understand.

Losing weight and keeping it off takes time and discipline. The same goes for developing effective communications. But, at the end of the day, the results are more streamlined communications that help employees value the investment their company is making in the plans and programs they offer. And, after all, isn’t that the point?

Box-Farnen is a communications consultant in Aon Hewitt’s Baltimore office. She can be reached at helen.box-farnen@aonhewitt.com.

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