Recap of Employer-only Sharing Call: Tackling Challenging Communications

A call hosted on July 12, 2023, focused on approaches and success stories in tackling challenging health and well-being communications.


July 12, 2023

Effective communication strategies are vital for engaging employees in their well-being journeys, both during open enrollment and throughout the year. On July 12, 2023, Business Group on Health convened more than 50 employer members to share ongoing approaches, creative practices and strategic efforts to overcome communication challenges and bolster employee engagement with health and well-being benefits.

The following recap summarizes the key themes and methods shared by employers during the discussion.

#1 Employers face a host of ongoing challenges that span from basic benefits education to delivering cost increases to complicated benefit modifications, demanding new and creative communication approaches.

Many employers on the call are facing communication challenges in the upcoming months, including the launch of new programs and changes with current benefits. When asked to share the most pressing health and well-being message their company plans to communicate in the near future, there was no shortage of answers, including increases to premiums or changes to cost-sharing requirements, changes to vendors and health plan provider partners, cuts to employer-funded accounts, return-to-office plans, differing benefit packages for various employee populations and broader issues like ensuring global consistency in communications strategies. Many employers indicated that employees often aren’t aware of benefits and programs already in place, adding an extra layer of complexity in building a successful communications strategy.

In response to these obstacles, employers have deployed creative communication modalities to connect with employees. Many have created toolkits, FAQs and email templates for local HR teams to leverage, and several have established communication committees across regions to ensure that company-wide communications contain consistent messaging while capturing local nuances. Others have found success through employee testimonial campaigns, where employees share the positive impact their company’s benefits have had on their health.

Employers also continue to use technology in new ways to reach their audience. For example, some employers have gamified their communication strategy, where employees can receive points toward a raffle for registering and interacting with a benefit platform. Others have incorporated social media, TikTok-style short video formats, messaging apps, text messages, publicly accessible benefit websites, QR codes and podcasts, in addition to more traditional methods like webinars, emails, flyers and posters. Employers continue to balance the use of multiple communication channels while remaining intentional with communications rollouts so that they do not inundate their workforce with repetitive information.

#2 Employers are deploying a variety of creative communication approaches to engage hard-to-reach employee populations with their health and well-being benefits and meet employees where they are.

Engaging hard-to-reach populations remains a perennial corporate communications challenge. Employers are constantly honing their communications strategy to focus on hard-to-reach and unengaged employee populations, including frontline and shift workers, and employees who may not use technology as a regular part of their job. Employers shared success with “boots on the ground” initiatives, including benefit roadshows that targeted locations with many non-desk employees. These roadshows were supplemented with printed materials that focused on benefits targeted to specific populations, like family and mental health support. One employer saw increased engagement in the programs promoted during the roadshow. Other employers have hosted in-person benefits events that encourage families to attend, such as barbecues, block parties and on-site appreciation events.

Employers are also shaping their communication approaches to fit employee preferences, gathering feedback through surveys and employee resource groups (ERGs). Managers are another key partner in communication efforts, especially when trying to influence hard-to-reach populations. One employer noted that employees consistently indicate in annual surveys that they prefer to receive benefits information from their manager. Many employers utilize monthly manager newsletters that contain critical health and well-being information for managers to disseminate.

#3 Employers rely on a variety of sources to measure the success of their communications campaigns.

When polled, a majority of employers on the call said they are measuring the results of their communication campaigns. Most employers indicated they still utilize more traditional metrics to track engagement and quantify success of their communication efforts (e.g., email clicks and open rates). However, there is recognition that these metrics often don’t paint the full picture of engagement. Employers are starting to factor in other indicators of success, such as increased enrollment in promoted health and well-being benefits and programs. Employers are also holding vendor partners accountable to report on click rates, participation in annual enrollment surveys, webinar engagement, and QR code downloads, among other engagement metrics.

The Road Ahead: Building Upon Communication Successes

In light of increasing pressures in an ever-changing benefits landscape, employers recognize the need for a strong communication strategy that educates and engages employees, especially those who are harder to reach. Effective communications convey the existing value of benefit plans, as well as serve as a tool to navigate forthcoming changes. Communications are not just limited to the open enrollment period either – employers are prioritizing year-round communication strategies that weigh the needs of employees as well as their families.

Employers are elevating their strategy beyond traditional written materials and webinars to incorporate new modalities that meet employees where they are to address both benefit basics and more complex messages. As with any strategy, measurement is key, and employers are continuing to evolve how they measure a successful communications campaign.

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