From time to time DDIFO is pleased to present Guest Commentary from valued contributors. Guest commentaries feature the views and opinions of the contributor and are not necessarily the opinions of DDIFO and it’s Board of Directors. The following is an article written and submitted by Peter Bergeron, Vice President, Client Services, Projections, Inc. 3264 Medlock Bridge Road, Norcross, GA 30092 (877) 448-9741

In an unstable market, it is critical for organizations to leverage their resources to ensure that the business remains viable and successful. An often overlooked resource that can increase employee satisfaction and help build a positive brand image in the marketplace is employee benefits. The key to leveraging employee benefits is a well-developed benefits communication strategy.

In their seventh annual Study of Employee Benefits Trends, MetLife found that employees are placing a higher emphasis on their benefits package than in recent years. In fact, “41 percent of surveyed employees consider workplace benefits to be the foundation of their personal safety net.” Yet, IOMA, a provider of business management information and products, states that employers only spend a small fraction of their benefits budget to ensure that “the whys and hows of their [benefit] plan’s design, its unique features, and its benefits to the employee” are communicated to employees. With this in mind, it is vital for organizations to effectively communicate benefits to employees.

Communication is vital to supporting the employer brand—to both internal employees and potential employees. According to Jennifer Benz, founder and chief strategist of Benz Communications, organizations should use the following guidelines to develop a solid benefits communication plan:

  • Get employees’ attention: Aggressively market benefits to employees.
  • Treat employees like customers: Segment employee populations and develop strategies for reaching employees based on their benefits needs and desires.
  • Know employees’ families: Make benefits information readily available to an employee’s spouse and other family members because they are critical in the decision-making process.
  • Provide access: Ensure that employees and their families can easily access the information.
  • Keep it whole: Review benefits to make sure that they are aligned with employee needs and the goals of the business.
  • Integrate: Coordinate all benefits communication for consistent messaging, especially when the organization uses multiple vendors for benefits.
  • Be consistent: Communicate benefits throughout the year, even during tough times.
  • Keep it simple: Make resources easy for employees to read and understand.
  • Let employees talk back: Provide an avenue for employees to offer feedback on benefits offerings.
  • Ensure it is working: Review the organization’s communication strategy to discern what is working and what is needed to communicate effectively with employees.

One of the key pieces to the benefits communication puzzle is how information is delivered. From online, interactive HRMS systems to town hall meetings (both actual and virtual) with employees, employers that recognize the value of solid benefits communication to the organization are using a variety of tools to keep employees informed. Twitter, Facebook, and other social networking sites can also be an effective way to communicate with employees, simply because many of them are already using this technology. Information can be posted online on blogs and delivered via RSS feeds, and quick updates and links can be sent via Twitter followers, but companies must be fully aware of the viral and public nature of what they are communicating.

Some companies are harnessing the power of the Web to communicate with employees and are experiencing great results. OnLine Connecting Point, a computer sales and networking service located in Irvine, Ca., took its benefits communication plan paperless by implementing a robust employee benefits Web site. Capitalizing on the availability and ease-of-use of the Internet, the OnLine Web site makes it possible for employees to access essential benefits information any time and any place. The site provides an overview of the employee’s complete benefits package, up-to-date provider information, online enrollment options, a frequently asked questions section, and other related information. The decision to provide an online component for benefits communication helped streamline benefits communication, reducing costs for the organization and increasing value to employees.

Companies are finding success with other multimedia tools as well, including video, eLearning and social networking. Projections Inc., one of the foremost providers of employee communications resources to North American companies, worked with BMW of North America to help make employees aware of rising health care costs. Using a member of upper management as narrator, Projections helped BMW communicate and explain the company’s concerns about health care benefits and their impact on the financial success of the organization. The video provided a positive, straightforward message of how the company was responding to health care concerns, information about new benefit plans, and options to help employees become smarter health care consumers to employees and their families. Ultimately, this approach empowered employees, giving them a voice and allowing them to help upper management develop a cost-efficient solution.

The bottom line of any organization is to be profitable and satisfy consumer needs. These goals should not be viewed separately from HR, Labor Relations, and employee satisfaction goals. By providing detailed, easily accessible benefits information throughout the year, organizations can improve employee loyalty and job satisfaction, which helps companies recruit and retain top talent—ultimately, impacting the organization’s bottom line.

Whether it’s using Twitter, a Web site, video, or face-to-face meetings, make sure that you are communicating with employees about their benefits package. Your company is already investing in benefits for employees; now, you can use them strategically to benefit the company. After all, healthy, satisfied, and well-informed employees should be a part of every organization’s business plan for not only surviving, but thriving in the current marketplace.

Projections has been helping companies communicate with employees for more than 3 decades, and works directly with the Human Resources and Labor Relations experts that help those companies maintain positive employee relations. For more information on the video, web, and eLearning resources Projections offers, please visit their website at www.ProjectionsInc.com