Whether it’s checking their dental coverage or choosing their DC investment options, for most employees, dealing with benefits issues ranks right up there with doing their taxes. That said, there are some simple rules you can follow to make it as painless as possible:

1. Minimize the time and effort required by employees to find specific information
. In an information-driven culture, employees expect instant gratification. More often than not, the answers they are seeking are straightforward. So, provide quick-reference tools, such as snapshots or summaries—both online and on paper. From there, employees should be able to drill down quickly to any and all of the plan-related information they might need. Make the information easy to find. Either put it in alphabetical order or sort it by life event—ideally, do both. This may seem obvious, but it’s often overlooked.

2.Use consistent and plain language across all of your media. This means using the same terminology to describe the same plan provisions in your forms, statements, online tools, presentations and newsletters. It also means making sure your frontline staff understands the terminology and uses it appropriately. When your DC pension plan is suddenly referred to as your RPP on your recordkeeper’s statements, you create a disconnect that can be a source of frustration and confusion for members. If you must use a technical term, define it on the same page.

3. Personalize it. One of the best ways to simplify information is to personalize it. Harness your member data to provide targeted, focused and customized information. Personalizing communications allows you to strip away the clutter and provide member-specific information only. Why confuse employees with a description of early retirement provisions that don’t apply to them because of age or service requirements? Why overload a single member with details of spousal benefits?

4.Test it. Simply providing advance copies of your material to the HR department isn’t enough. Even if members of your HR team are not directly involved with the program, they probably know enough about it to make them poor test subjects. Coming up with a representative cross-section of members to test materials may take some time and effort, but the payoff is big. Not only will you end up with a more effective product, you’ll be drawing unofficial opinion leaders into the process—which will help give them a sense of ownership for the program and turn them into program advocates.

Above all, remember the platinum rule of benefits communication: don’t communicate with others based on your communication preferences; communicate with them based on their communication preferences.

Copyright © 2020 Transcontinental Media G.P. Originally published on benefitscanada.com

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Sandra Folk:

Hello Susan,
I read your article which offers 4 rules for communicating with plan members. I couldn’t agree with you more. In our work to improve clients’ communication, we stress the importance of writing for your audience, use plain language, avoid jargon, be consistent, be concise, aim for shorter sentences and edit, test, edit.
The benefit of following these tips is that, in the end, it saves time and avoids spawning additional communication.

Monday, July 04 at 9:43 pm | Reply

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