In the midst of the COVID-19 crisis, there are even more challenges to communicating about benefits. Communication budgets have been cut, employees are working remotely, and attention is understandably focused elsewhere.
Milliman consultants Jennifer Bolton and Julie Bentz offer six practical tips to break through the barriers:
- Build your benefits brand.
- Cut through the clutter.
- Repeat to retain.
- Get creative with your delivery.
- Give it to them straight.
- Answer common questions.
To read their full article, click here.
Milliman recently won a 2020 Gold Quill Award in Human Resources and Benefits Communication from the International Association of Business Communicators (IABC).
Milliman received the award for its “Benefits =
Coverage You Can Count On” Open Enrollment campaign, a new benefits brand designed
to play off the firm’s actuarial roots. Milliman used a four-month multimedia
campaign to roll out the new brand and promote active enrollment to its 2,900 U.S.
Of the entry, judges
commented, “Milliman’s key messages were well thought-out and creatively stated.
The materials are highly likely to capture audience attention and engage them. Well
done tackling a complex project, especially given that for the first time in
two decades, Milliman was planning to transition to new benefit carriers.”
are honored to have been recognized internationally for outstanding achievement
in communication,” said Vicki Gleeson, Milliman Chief Human Resources Officer. “The
employee feedback we received mirrors the judges’ comments. They loved it!”
“We are always thrilled to support our clients in achieving their business and benefit objectives through effective communication,” said Julie Bentz, Principal and Communication Director, EB Admin Practice. “This win is especially meaningful for us, since we were working on behalf of our own company and our co-workers.”
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.
“Each year I am incredibly impressed by the work of the Gold Quill winners and this year is no exception,” said Stephanie Doute, CAE, Executive Director of IABC. “Gold Quill Award winners demonstrate a mastery of all elements of strategic communication and have the measurable business results to prove their success.”
In uncertain times, clear and consistent communication is more important than ever. Now is not the time to go radio silent ― even if you don’t have all the answers. Frequent touchpoints can help decrease stress and provide reassurance during challenging times.
Try these tips to stay in touch with your employees.
- Be open and honest. If there was ever a time for direct and down-to-earth messaging, it’s now. Provide answers if you have them, and be honest if you don’t.
- Update often. Sometimes less is more, but right now employees want―and need―to hear from leadership on a regular basis. Don’t wait until you have all the answers. Give updates as soon as you have them.
- Step outside your communication comfort zone. Your tried-and-true communication channels may not work. Look for new ways to reach employees.
- Podcasts: People like to consume information or entertainment in short bursts. According to the New York Times, about one in three Americans listens to podcasts. Podcasts can be produced quickly, which allows you to respond nimbly to changing conditions. For example, Milliman released a podcast to retirement plan participants in response to recent market volatility.
- Virtual meetings: With restrictions on group face-to-face gatherings and travel, people are turning to virtual meetings―especially those with a video component―as a replacement. When Milliman clients needed to cancel in-person group meetings and one-on-one consultations with our Retirement Educators, our Meeting Services team provided a virtual solution.
- Move quickly. In a rapidly changing situation, your communication needs to keep up the pace. Podcasts and websites are efficient ways to provide updated information. For example, Milliman added a COVID-19 resource page on our financial wellness website, which included:
- Tips to settle nerves, stay informed, and make wise financial decisions
- A link to download the “What To Do When … The Market Declines” podcast
- A video that covered what to remember when the market takes a downturn
- Note the date and time. It’s a good idea to date- and time-stamp your materials. When things are changing on an hour-to-hour basis, people need to know what information is the most timely.
- Provide resources. Reassure employees that help is available. Direct them to resources like your Employee Assistance Program (EAP), mental health benefits, and financial education. Consider posting Frequently Asked Question (FAQ) updates, such as:
- Are telemedicine visits covered?
- How do I change my prescription to mail order?
- Where can I get help to manage my child’s anxiety?
- How do I change my 401(k) contributions?
- Change course if you need to. You may need to interrupt your regularly scheduled programming. Are the messages timely and do they still make sense in the current environment? Or do employees need to hear something else? In response to the market declines, we replaced the March retirement plan participant email with an email about market volatility.
- Cut through the clutter. Make your communication easy to understand and avoid business jargon. Break down complicated concepts by using bullets, charts, and infographics. For example, we helped retirement plan participants understand the impact of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act with a chart that organized the details into logical components―what you need to know, the deadline to request relief, and how to apply for help.
Milliman has announced it has added the IBEW Local 405 Deferred Savings Plan as a defined contribution client. The plan includes 900 participants and $184 million in assets.
“We chose Milliman based on recommendations
from other unions as well as our consultants,“ says Bill Hanes, Business
Manager and Trustee. “Milliman’s reputation among labor unions and our peers in
the industry is very good.”
Milliman will provide recordkeeping, communications, and ERISA
consulting services for the plan.
We are excited to work with the IBEW Local 405. The trustees valued our independence and transparency, but it was also important that our viewpoints aligned regarding how to best serve the needs of their members. Our philosophies were consistent.
For information on Milliman’s employee benefit services, click here.
Milliman today announced it has added the Wisconsin Ironworkers Union Individual Account Retirement Fund as a defined contribution client. The plan includes over 3,300 participants and $215 million in assets.
“We had a retirement plan that was valued once a month and the Board of Trustees wanted to move it to daily valuation to allow the members of Local 8 to better plan for their retirement,” says Tony Mayrhofer, Business Manager and Trustee. “We selected Milliman for their extensive experience converting plans like ours from balance-forward to daily valuation, with participant-direction, without having to change the unique investment structure that we had in place. Our members are very pleased with the change and can now view their accounts at any time. I couldn’t be happier with the program that we now have in place.”
Milliman will provide recordkeeping, communications, and ERISA consulting services for the plan.
We are grateful the Board of Trustees chose Milliman for their retirement needs. The trustees and staff at Local 8 are great to work with and it really was a nice collaborative effort with the other fund professionals in making the transition successful.
For information on Milliman’s employee benefit services, click here.
While employees across all generations might share common goals
and challenges, priorities will vary depending on where they are in their lives
and careers. For example, research shows the goal of aligning employer and employee
values is particularly important to Millennials.
In today’s tight labor market, companies need to look beyond salary in order to attract and retain employees. Companies must also understand what employees really want from their jobs and be purposeful and creative with the benefits packages they offer. Designing such comprehensive, competitive benefits packages means looking beyond the old standards—health insurance, retirement, paid time off—and embracing forward-thinking options like nontraditional and voluntary benefits, and improvements to a company’s work environment and culture.
As with financial security, flexibility is also
an important goal for everyone. How that looks could vary significantly, from
telecommuting and remote work to phased retirement options. Employers who take
into account such differences in priorities are more likely to create an
inclusive benefits environment that meets the needs of all their employees.
To read more about what companies can do to attract and retain employees, read this paper by Ellen Harrington and Valerie Verrecchio.