Category Archives: Communications

Seven simple steps to a stress-free enrollment

When it comes to open enrollment, communication matters. But is it working? Many employers don’t think so. A recent survey by the International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans found that 80% of organizations think employees don’t open or read materials. And 49% think employees don’t understand the content. So what’s the solution? Try these tips to get your messages across.

1. Look at last year. Consider the feedback you got on last year’s campaign. Which communication pieces resonated? Which fell flat? Take a look at the questions employees raised and work those into your materials for this year.

2. Define success and then measure it. Determine what a successful campaign looks like. What are your goals? Do you want a certain number of employees to enroll in a medical plan or use the online tools? After enrollment, look at the numbers and gather employee feedback via focus groups or an online survey to guide future campaigns.

3. Cut the clutter. People don’t want to weed through a 50-page brochure to find information. Remember that readers are used to quickly scanning an article for the high points. Break up paragraphs into bullet points, pull important details into callouts, and use infographics in place of long-winded narratives.

4. Know your purpose. Start with what you want your communication piece to do and let that drive the format. For example, if you want to educate, use FAQs and examples. If you want to inspire employees, feature testimonials.

5. Use straight talk. Don’t try to sugarcoat change messages. Clearly explain what’s happening, why it’s happening, and when it’s happening. Change can be hard, but you have to be honest with employees to earn their trust.

6. Start early and communicate often. Give employees a heads-up early on, especially if you’re making major plan design changes. Announce key dates, such as when enrollment will be and when employee meetings will be held. As the deadline approaches, remind employees to take action.

7. Go for variety. Reach your employees with a variety of media to appeal to generational and personal preferences. For example, if you’re explaining a new high-deductible health plan, you might mail employees a print piece to their homes, post a video online, and walk through the new plan at employee meetings.

If you need additional support, be sure to talk with your Milliman communication consultant.

Milliman wins prestigious 2018 Gold Quill Award

Milliman today announced that it has received the 2018 Gold Quill Award of Excellence in Human Resources & Benefits Communication at the International Association of Business Communicators (IABC) Excellence Gala in Montreal.

Milliman received the award for “A Fine Blend” campaign, which it developed for client Southern Glazer’s Wine and Spirits. Milliman used a six-month multimedia campaign to introduce a new culture, harmonized benefits program, and online enrollment process to Southern Glazer’s 22,000 employees.

Of the entry, judges said, “We really like how Milliman’s campaign supported the client’s business outcome and has been measured in terms of a number. A number that makes the board of directors sit up and take notice of communication. Likewise, this very well executed campaign has met and exceeded the tactical objectives and targets. Very well done.”

We are honored to have been recognized internationally for outstanding achievement in communication and change management. But more importantly, we are thrilled to have supported the Southern Glazer’s HR team in achieving their business, human resources, and benefits objectives.

Milliman’s Julie Cannaday with client Southern Glazer’s Wine & Spirits HR leaders Michelle Toney, Margaret Walker and Nicole Boyd (from left) accept the 2018 Gold Quill Award of Excellence in Human Resources & Benefits Communication at the International Association of Business Communicators (IABC) Excellence Gala in Montreal.

For more than 40 years, IABC’s Gold Quill Awards have recognized excellence in strategic communication worldwide and are acknowledged as one of the most prestigious awards programs in the industry.

“Only exceptional work earns an IABC Gold Quill Award,” said Cindy Schmieg ABC, IABC fellow, chair of the awards committee. “Each entry is rigorously reviewed by multiple experienced communicators from around the world who are trained in applying IABC’s Global Standard of the Communication Profession. The award winners represent our profession of ethical practitioners contributing to organizational outcomes.”

Enhancing total rewards program engagement and value proposition

A large Milliman client with approximately 30,000 employees operates under a number of distinct brands. The majority of these employees work in the field, spread across the country in numerous regional centers.

The client is committed to a set of core values and a culture of engagement, yet the multiple brands and scattered geography were making it difficult to create a cohesive culture. Despite the organization’s ongoing investment in a solid package of employee programs, services, and opportunities, employees were not understanding and valuing the programs offered—their overall total rewards. In fact, many benefit programs were languishing.

The client approached the firm looking for a solution. The client’s primary goals were to:

• Maximize the return on the considerable investment the organization was making in employee programs and boost awareness of, appreciation for, and participation in key benefit programs.
• Increase employee engagement and, over time, build trust, influence attraction, motivation, and retention efforts, and improve productivity.

To read more about how Milliman helped this organization meets its goals, read Sharon Stocker’s case study.

Employee communication considerations for M&As

This blog post is the fifth in a series of six that will highlight considerations for and the impacts of employee benefit plans on mergers and acquisitions (M&A) transactions. Click here for additional blogs in this series. To learn how Milliman consultants can help your organization with the employee benefits aspects of M&As, click here.

What about me? That’s the number one question employees are thinking about when they hear the first whisper of M&A activity.

• Will I have a job?
• What will my benefits look like?
• I was on track for that promotion; what now?

In her blog post “Employee benefit plan considerations for M&As,” Cheryl Frost writes, “In addition, appropriate, well-timed communication is critical to talent management—the most critical asset in the deal. Retention of key management is sensitive and important. Communicating the strategic vision and benefits of the transaction to employees is a key component to the success of any transaction.”

An M&A is the time for more communication—not less. Communication efforts are often spent on getting the attention of employees. During times of change, you have their attention. Use it! This is a unique time to reaffirm the value of the total benefits package available to employees and their families. Promote your financial and health benefits. Remind them about the Employee Assistance Program. These are benefits that are available any time and may be particularly helpful during times of change.

Six tips for an effective M&A communication strategy
If you’re already communicating with your employees on an ongoing basis, you have the foundation on which to build an effective M&A communication strategy. Be sure you:

1. Communicate early and often. Change causes stress. And stressed employees can cause loss of productivity. So get in front of it! Even if you don’t know the answers, it’s OK to say that. Just let employees know when they can expect an update, and then follow through with it.

2. Know where you stand. If you are not sure how employees are feeling or what you need to communicate, review the data. Some indicators of employee stress or disengagement include:

• Higher call volume to human resources (HR) or vendor call centers
• Trends in your benefit claims
• Spikes in 401(k) loans
• An uptick in sick days
• More traffic to your website or specific searches

3. Control the message. Make sure employees get the news from you—not the media or the watercooler. Use every communication channel you have available and make sure the message is consistent. Consider a microsite devoted to M&A information, and update it regularly as more information becomes available or changes occur.

4. Listen. Whether this means town hall meetings, webinars, focus groups, or a simple, dedicated email address, give employees an outlet for questions. This simple act involves them in the process, builds buy-in, and allows you to adjust your communication strategy in response.

5. Use straight talk. Share the facts. Help employees understand the business perspective on what’s happening and why. Let people know what to expect and when, and avoid platitudes or promises.

6. Keep your managers informed. Managers are often the go-to source for employee questions. Make sure to arm employees with positioning statements, FAQs, and where they can go for more information.

A successful merger or acquisition is supported by a thoughtful, well-planned and executed communication strategy. Get your communication consultant involved from the beginning.

Infographic: Five ways to motivate Millennials through employee communication

According to Gallup, Millennials make up close to 40% of the United States workforce. However, less than one-third of them are engaged at work. Encouraging Millennials to take action concerning their employee benefits can be a difficult task. Fortunately, there are several communication tactics organizations can use to motivate even the most uninterested Millennial. The infographic below, based on a blog post by Milliman’s Jessica Gonchar, highlights five of these tactics.

Recruiting a workforce with intergenerational strategies

By 2020, five generations will work together at some companies for the first time. Human Resources (HR) departments that prepare to meet the different needs of each generation will secure the best talent. A recruitment approach that aligns corporate business strategies, internal equity, and employee compensation can be an effective strategy. Milliman’s Anthony Halim offers perspective in his article “Effective intergenerational employee compensation approaches.”