Market Commentary - 4th Quarter 2020
Markets continued their advance over the quarter as accomodative monetary policy and multiple COVID-19 vaccine approvals bolstered the economic recovery.
Let’s face it: communicating about benefits is always a challenge. People are busy and bombarded with messages. Every 60 seconds, there are 19 million texts fired off and 190 million emails sent.1 It’s hard for benefits communication to compete. A recent study2 found that people spend 18 minutes choosing benefits to protect their families for the next year―versus four hours to pick the best cell phone.
Now, in the midst of the COVID-19 crisis, there are even more challenges. Communication budgets have been cut, employees are working remotely, and attention is understandably focused elsewhere.
So what’s the solution? There’s no magic bullet, but here are six practical tips to break through the barriers.
Your benefits communication needs to stand out. One of the best ways to do that is to develop a distinct look and feel―a brand.
Create a unifying look to visually link all benefits communication. That way, when employees receive a communication piece, they’ll know it’s about benefits. Your visual platform should include a color palette, photography, art elements, and a benefits brand name or campaign tagline.
But branding is more than a logo and pretty pictures. It also means your tone and voice. What overall feeling do you want employees to walk away with?
For example, Milliman wanted to emphasize its best-in-class benefits for its own employees. We developed the tagline “Benefits = coverage you can count on.” The math references throughout the campaign (equals, count) tied in to Milliman’s actuarial roots. The tone and voice are conversational and direct. The overall feeling is that Milliman benefits are reliable, valuable, and comforting.
Learn more about Milliman’s award-winning campaign here.
Nobody wants to search through a 50-page Summary Plan Description. Readers are used to quickly scanning an article for high points. Try these techniques:
Remember the rule of seven. People need to hear something an average of seven times before taking action. Your benefits guide may have all of the details, but if people aren’t aware of it or motivated to open it, it’s not going to change behavior.
Use a variety of media to get your message across, such as print brochures and postcards mailed to homes, benefit websites, videos, webinars, and virtual meetings.
Start early, and repeat your messages often―especially if you’re making benefit changes. Effective communication campaigns are a multistep process:
Your tried-and-true communication channels may not work. Look for new ways to reach employees. This is not the time for bells and whistles. You want accurate, cost-effective communication that doesn’t appear flashy.
If you are making changes to your benefit plans, don’t try to sugarcoat the message. Be open and honest. Clearly explain what’s happening, why it’s happening, and when it’s happening. Putting a spin on it can create distrust and ruin credibility.
For example, let’s say your company has decided to stop making employer contributions to your 401(k) plan for the time being. Your communication might include the following messages:
With all of the unknowns out there, your employees need to be able to count on you for answers. Consider posting these common questions in a frequently asked questions (FAQ) format.
Bottom line: benefits communication matters more than ever now. Take the time to craft communication that works. The messages you send can help employees feel less stressed and more confident in their benefit decisions.
1Lewis, L. (March 10, 2020). Infographic: What Happens in an Internet Minute 2020. AllAccess.com. Retrieved May 10, 2020, from https://www.allaccess.com/merge/archive/31294/infographic-what-happens-in-an-internet-minute.
2PlanSource (May 9, 2019). PlanSource Benefits Benchmark Report: Despite increasing cost and number of benefits offered, employees spend little time enrolling. GlobalNewsWire. Retrieved May 10, 2020, from https://www.globenewswire.com/news-release/2019/05/09/1820817/0/en/PlanSource-Benefits-Benchmark-Report-Despite-Increasing-Cost-and-Number-of-Benefits-Offered-Employees-Spend-Little-Time-Enrolling.html.
3Peiser, J. (March 6, 2019). Podcast growth is popping in the U.S., survey shows, New York Times. Retrieved May 10, 2020, from https://www.nytimes.com/2019/03/06/business/media/podcast-growth.html.
4Cannaday, J. (April 17, 2020). The No. 1 question 401(k) participants are asking during the COVID-19 market swings—and how to respond. Milliman Retirement Town Hall. Retrieved May 10, 2020, from https://www.retirementtownhall.com/?p=10241#sthash.RFojqinN.dpbs.