Measuring a Healthy Return on Your Benefits Communication

Employees may be one of the largest expenses for a company, but talent is also a company’s greatest asset. And in today’s increasingly competitive marketplace, more and more companies are looking to benefits packages to maintain their competitive advantage to attract and retain top employees. Because of this, it is critical for human resources departments to invest in a benefits communications campaign to ensure employees know and understand their full benefits, and why their benefits package is one of the reasons the organization is a great place to work.benefits communication

With so many complex nuances in healthcare today, plus the fact that employees (with the rest of society) are bombarded with thousands of messages each day, finding a way to cut through the clutter and get employees to pay attention to messages about benefits plans is no small feat. That’s why in today’s fast-paced, ever-connected, bombarded-with-messages culture, HR professionals need to think like marketers.

They need to treat employees as a unique audience and communicate with them just like other consumer brands. It’s the only way the important news and information employees need to hear will be heard–and the only way to build true engagement.

Beyond reaching hearts and minds, designing a benefits communication campaign like a marketing campaign also enables HR and marketing teams to develop goals and measure success, allowing them to show a return on investment.

So how can HR professionals think like marketers? By creating campaigns for internal audiences the same way their marketing team would create a campaign for a new product, setting goals and measuring success in a way that shows a return on investment for the benefits campaign.

Whether the budget is big or small, here are a few ways to get the most out of your benefits communication investment, and evaluate and measure the campaign’s success and impact.

 Begin with the End in Mind

 It can be hard to measure and prove the success of internal marketing campaigns. One of the reasons it can be difficult, is that many teams jump into designing and implementing the campaign before deciding what the goals are. Goals should include measurable factors like:

  • Achieving a higher percentage of staff signing up for health benefits
  • Increasing staff participating in the company health initiative
  • Reducing the number of questions to HR departments during open enrollment or throughout the year about benefits

Work Smarter, Not Harder

 Human resources and internal marketing departments often find themselves faced with the enormous task of communicating complicated benefits packages with a shoestring budget. To make the most out of time and money:

  • Don’t expect staff to drink from the firehose when it comes to complex benefits communication. Present information in small amounts over a long period of time.
  • Personalize information to different audiences–i.e. those nearing retirement, expecting parents, those interested in other health-specific issues (child care, elder care, women-specific health issues, wellness initiatives, etc.).
  • Look for ways to reuse or recycle content from previous year benefits communications, and present information in a variety of ways (email, staff meetings, video clips, etc.).

Don’t Forget to Measure

 While it might be tempting to celebrate the moment the open enrollment period ends, don’t forget to wrap up the communications campaign by measuring what worked and what didn’t to show your ROI and find ways to improve the campaign for next year.

Using the goals set at the beginning of the campaign, gather information to gauge success using tools like:

  • The number of employees signed up for health benefits, and comparing these numbers to previous years
  • The number of employees participating in specific health initiatives, such as wellness programs, anti-smoking or others
  • The number of emails or calls to HR with questions

In addition, don’t forget the importance of qualitative factors like employee morale and overall attitudes. A great benefits communications campaign should get staff excited about their benefits and the overall company culture. Staff surveys or informal check-ins with departments are some of the ways to gauge if the benefits communications campaign is effectively sharing the right messages.

 With today’s healthcare landscape, benefit plans are likely only going to get more complex, while being even more vital to employees and their families. It’s up to HR and internal marketing teams to make sure staff understand their full benefits package and the ways the organization is contributing to their overall health.

Benefits communications campaigns don’t need to be expensive, nor should they be left up to chance for success. With planning, strategy and measurement, human resources and internal marketing departments can execute benefits communications programs that demonstrate a healthy return on investment.

Lisa Laine Miller and James Gabriel Brown are the principals and co-founders of Columbus, Ohio-based advertising agency LaineGabriel, an agency specializing in internal marketing campaigns. They can be reached at 614-441-4226, or