Benefits Communications: One Size Does Not Fit All

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In today's multi-generational workforce, one-size-fits-all employee benefits are no longer effective strategies. Employees today need customized benefits packages that meet their own specific needs, challenges and life stages. Rolling out benefits programs based solely on personal experience risks missing entire groups of employees who don't happen to share challenges with those making the decisions. "Everyone has their things they're trying to deal with while being at work," Sharon Votaw, VP of global compensation, benefits, and HRIS at imaging and print-services technology provider Lexmark, told us at our Solutions at Work LIVE conference earlier this year. "So what we want to do is try to provide a wide variety of benefits that can cater to those differing needs."

Personalizing Benefits Communications

Customizing your benefits packages is a great start. But to truly achieve benefits success, you have to customize how you communicate them as well. And it turns out benefits communications preferences ; like benefits needs -- are as individual as the employees themselves, and so vary based on age, gender, and type of benefit. "Benefits are complicated and getting more so," said consultant, Karl Ahlrichs, at last month's SHRM Conference in New Orleans. "A one-size-fits-all style [of communications] no longer works."

Communication Preferences by Benefit Type

What might be most surprising is how communications channels need to shift -- not just with the audience, but the message. People may be content to investigate wellness benefits online, for example. But a study shows for many other issues, live contact still rules. "While it's easy to think technology has displaced live communication," reads a World at Work article on the study, "the reality is technology is a complement to human interaction." Even more surprising is who prefers what: Millennials, according to the study, prefer in-person interactions more than their Gen X and Boomer colleagues. "Surprisingly," say World at Work, "it may be your youngest employees who would most like to sit in your office and have a chat to better understand their benefits."

"High-Touch versus High-Tech"

The takeaways are that you need to provide choices, and that sprinkling some plain, old-fashioned human contact in with your technology ; what the study calls a 'high-touch meets high-tech' approach is key. Still, like employees themselves, the precise communications formula you adopt needs to vary by organization. That means a broad study like the one above will only get you so far. To generate effective benefits communications, you'll have to know how your people want information. And for that, you'll have to go to the source ; employees ; via focus groups and surveys. As Accenture's Julie Wilkes reminded us some time ago, the goal is to show you're really listening. "You must know your workforce, you must know what they need," Julie told us, "and meet them where they are with those programs."
working with millennials and engaging generation y

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