As an internal communicator there are several key dates throughout the year that you must be prepared for. One of the most important is Open Enrolment. In recent years healthcare costs have risen and plan designs have become more complex. Open Enrollment communications have become more challenging and more sought after by employees. To effectively communicate your company benefits you must create a clear and consistent communications plan.
With that in mind here are a few best practices to consider when planning out your Open Enrollment Communications:
Start with a survey
The time to start gathering information for Open Enrollment is now. The best way to find out where your communication gaps are is to go to the source. Design a simple survey (through Google or survey providers like Survey Monkey). Determine the level of awareness, what employees need more information about, and what you are doing well. This information will give you a good foundation when you begin building your communications plan.
Reach out early and often
Going from no information for 11 months, then lots of information all at once when decisions must be made immediately can be overwhelming. Rather than overloading your employees with a massive information drop, spread your Open Enrollment communications out over the year. Create a 12-month communications plan that delivers small bits of information every month. A consistent flow of communications about your benefits will increase understanding and engagement.
Keep it simple
Keep your messaging simple. Your job is to break through all of the confusing technical details and answer employees’ most basic questions. What? When? Where? How? Provide clear information, dates, checklists, and decision support tools that are easy to follow. Once your employees have an understanding of the process, they will find it much easier to come to a final decision.
Don’t sugarcoat the news
Your employees are intelligent. Be open and honest with them. Communicate any challenging news such as increased health plan premiums or rising deductibles. Messaging that is meant to conceal this information will be seen as a negative and will impact employee morale. On the same note, highlight the value of your benefits plan. Promote wellness and have your employees share their stories of personal wellness with their colleagues.
Being prepared for Open Enrollment will make the entire process easier. Get out in front of the issue and have a plan that simplifies the information with a clear and consistent message.
I was a reluctant entrepreneur. I didn’t have business school training, or someone else’s money, or a killer app to get me started. In fact, in 2000 when I launched Insight Communications, apps didn’t exist. After many years in corporate communication leadership roles, I knew I wanted more. I left my job without a detailed plan. It was an eye opener. Gone was the status that came with my previous role, my dedicated assistant, and a cool Midtown office. My new office was my dining room table. And it turned out just great.
Now Insight Communications is 17 years old! That’s a remarkable milestone when 8 out 10 small businesses fail. Over the years, we transitioned from marketing communications to internal communications. In 2014, we branched out to hatch Nest Egg Communications, a boutique agency focused on ESOP and retirement communications.
None of it would be possible without the customers who have sustained us, challenged us, and inspired us along the way. I am so thankful to them, particularly to Clay Robbins at Oglethorpe Power who was our first customer.
To celebrate our birthday, we have a gift for you: Our viewpoint on communications that separates great workplaces from good ones. Enjoy!
Less is more. The secret to effective communications is keeping it simple. Resist the urge to add more superficial detail. Your audiences will pay attention.
Commitment at the top is the key to success. We’ve worked with both types of leadership teams -those that are aligned and those who just say they are. Your employees recognize when your leaders don’t walk the talk. Get in step.
Personal stories leave a handprint on the heart. The shortest distance between two people is a story. When you share a personal story, people pay attention and remember the point of your message.
Be credible. We’ve seen more than a few companies ballyhoo their fantastic culture externally, while internally, the high performers are beating it out the door. Respect your employees enough to tell the truth. Be brave enough to be transparent, even when the news isn’t good. The most successful businesses tell it straight and involve employees in solutions.
Make your employees the stars. Let’s face it; we’ve all seen enough of the CEO. How often do you hear from frontline employees? Make employees the stars of your internal communications, recruiting and social media. It will bring your brand to life for customers, partners, and new talent.
A recent poll stated that approximately 41% of Americans make New Year’s resolutions. In that same poll the number one New Year’s resolution for 2017 was to lose weight and live a healthier lifestyle. These numbers show that your team members are conscious about their health. So how do you turn resolutions into habits?
This is the perfect time of year to introduce or reinvent your company Wellness Program. Employee wellness is often seen as a personal issue, but there tangible benefits for businesses to promote health and wellness. U.S. healthcare costs are predicted to rise 6.5% in 2017 and cost sharing between businesses and employees continues to accelerate.
Wellness Programs can contribute to lower healthcare costs, reduce absenteeism and decrease workers compensations claims. Research shows that employees who take part in Wellness Programs are more engaged and more productive. Here are a few ideas your business can use to create excitement and promote healthy lifestyles.
Host a Wellness Expo
An event dedicated to understanding employee benefits and healthy living creates excitement and comradery. Make sure to promote the event with fun, consistent messaging that explains event activities and overall goals of the expo. Here are some activities to include in your plan:
· Cooking Demos
· Wellness Challenges
· Interactive Fitness Sessions
· Biometric Screenings & Flu Shots
· Health food snack giveaways
· “Wear your work out wear to the office” day
Create a Wellness Rewards Program
Creating a wellness rewards program is another great way to promote healthy living. The idea is simple: incentivize your employees for healthy lifestyle choices. Set up wellness benchmarks, ask employees to track participation and when a certain threshold is met, they receive a wellness incentive. Offer monetary rewards or reduction in insurance premiums for completing preventative care screenings, biometric exams or completing tobacco cessation programs. Create a program to promote and track fitness or wellness activities and offer rewards at different levels. For example complete four activities, get a T-shirt, at eight activities a gym bag, and be entered into a grand prize raffle at twelve activities. Here are some ideas to get you started:
· Participate in an organized walking, running, or cycling event
· Get a flu shot or give blood
· Have your teeth cleaned
· Coach a youth sports team
· Participate on a sports team: softball, basketball, kickball
· Go to an aerobics class or work out at a gym
· Go for a hike or walk
· Eat balanced, healthy meals for 1 week and keep a food diary
Partner with Health Experts
Identify non-profit health organizations in your community to share health information. Organizations like the American Red Cross, the American Cancer Society and Diabetes Foundation have downloadable toolkits, information sheets and other resources available at no cost. Invite a speaker to a lunch and learn at your business or participate in a fundraising event.
Successful leaders know that effective communications are a competitive advantage. As you begin 2017, make a resolution to evaluate the health of your employee communications. Are business goals and actions aligned? Do employees understand priorities and do they have a way to participate and share ideas?
Everyone talks about the importance of communications, but it’s just lip service without an actionable plan. Here are four ways to commit to better communications in 2017.
1) Map out your communications calendar right now—Begin with a “Welcome to 2017” message. Schedule dates for the entire year now to ensure it remains a priority. Keep the content fresh with a mix of performance results, customer and employee stories, and encouragement. We all need more of that.
2) Articulate the vision— If a customer asks an employee what your business was about, what would they say? Everyone on your team should use the same headline. When people can connect their work to big goals, they are more engaged. Leaders who communicate the vision and values, then put those values into action, see performance climb.
3) Use stories to make an impact—Think back to the most recent story that struck a chord with you. Was it complicated or overstuffed with facts? Simple stories make an emotional connection with the audience and hold their attention. Use your own experiences to make a point. I recently heard the president of a large hospitality group say that he makes time for fitness daily because “We only get one set of parts and I want mine to last.” That’s memorable and tells me something interesting about him. Leaders who share a little of themselves in communications are viewed as credible and human.
4) Get visual—Visuals are processed 60,000 times faster than text. If you rely on email as your primary form of communication, know that there is a better way. In 2016, there were 4.6 billion cell phone users in the world and most phones have video or photo capability. Your team members are viewing or creating visual media every day. Use photos and video as frequently as you use memos. Video is an excellent way to improve message retention, connect with remote workers, and engage senior leadership with teams. The best part is you don’t have to have a large budget or be an on-camera pro. If you’re sincere, it will be memorable.
That will get you started. Need some help in communications planning for 2017? Get in touch.
That’s the refrain of business leaders when employee performance doesn’t match expectations, or when a new initiative is greeted with a collective yawn. Employees must be too busy, disengaged or distracted to understand why this is important, right?
It’s a common predicament. Perhaps it’s not the audience, but the message.
There’s a far better way to engage internal audiences, and it doesn’t include handing out T-shirts and coffee mugs. Use storytelling to make an emotional connection.
We’ve been taught that “correct” business communications isvery detailed, data driven and cost/benefit oriented. It’s a proven formula. However, when the goal is to inspire action, introduce change, or persuade, storytelling is more effective. It helps ideas stick.
You know this is true. It’s how myths and legends are born. It’s why we share the same stories around the table at Thanksgiving or at reunions with old friends. It’s why the business origin stories for Coca Cola or Spanx are fascinating.
Engaging employees through storytelling binds them together in a shared experience. It’s a method anyone can use. Here are four tips to help you get started:
Start with the end in mind. What do you want your team to believe and do after they hear the story? Identify the objective and build the story around it.
Set the scene. A strong introduction is the key to a solid story. Engage the audience with a personal experience, a struggle or make an employee the hero.
Simplify. Twitter has taught us that we can make a point in 140 characters. A strong story, just like a good joke, adds just enough details to advance the story. Too much detail and you’ve lost them.
Be authentic. Use conversational language. Share something about you. The power to persuade is lost if the story sounds like it’s lifted from a user’s manual.