With all the messages competing for your employees' limited attention, how do you unlock engagement? By cutting through the noise with a top-notch benefits communication game plan.

Building on our 10 Keys to Unlocking Successful Benefits Communication, this webinar will help you fine-tune your own benefits communication strategy, so you can prioritize and focus your efforts for your year ahead.

Our worksheet, a quick and easy tool with actionable tips, can help you identify where your communication strategy is working well, where it needs to be adjusted, and what you could do differently to achieve your desired results.

In this webinar, you'll learn:

  • How to apply our 10 keys framework to your organization
  • Where to focus your time, resources, and budget
  • What to prioritize to drive higher engagement and get results

Sign up to watch the webinar and download the slides and worksheet. You can also view the full transcript below.


Webinar Transcript: Making the 10 Keys Work Best for You 

Jen: Hey, everyone. Thanks for joining us. We're going to get started in just a few minutes. We have a bunch of folks logging on right now. We'll get started in just a moment. A few more people logging on. And we'll be ready to go.

Alright, let's go ahead and get started. Hi, everyone. This is Making the 10 Keys Work for You. This is an interactive workshop. I'm Jen Benz, and I'm joined by my colleague, Megan Yost.

Megan: Hello.

Jen: Hi, Megan.

Megan: Hi.

Jen: This is the first time we've ever done a webinar on video. So, we're glad that you have joined us for the experiment here. We'll talk about the agenda and what we're going to cover today. Then, I will walk you through the Zoom interface a little bit, so that you can make it work best for you while we're getting everything started.

We're going to start with just a little bit about us, and how to drive engagement. Then, we're going to walk you through an interactive workshop, taking you through our whole 10 Keys. This is a methodology we've created and used with dozens and dozens of organizations over the last several years. And we're hoping that you're going to leave today with a very, very clear path of where you need to go.

There were some materials sent out to you in advance. This morning you should have gotten a worksheet that looks like this. And it has a bunch of questions to fill out. We're going to go through that. If you've printed it out, great. You can mark it up along the way.

If you haven't printed it, no problem. We'll ask you the questions, have you write down your answer, and then submit it in the poll on the Zoom interface, so that we can see how everyone else is doing, and have some conversation about it.

All of this also goes along with this 10 Keys book that's available digitally on our website. Or we'd be happy to send you a printed copy, too, after this, to help you throughout everything.

Megan, anything you want to add, just setting things up today?

Megan: If you have a question, there is a Q&A button at the bottom of your screen in the ribbon with all of the different options. You can submit questions to us along the way, and we'll be monitoring those as we go. We'll address them while we're working through the conversation, or we can also address them at the end during the Q&A session.

Jen: Yep. That's great. There's also a lot of different functionality within the Zoom window, so that you can customize it for how you want to see us. If you go into the upper right corner, where you see the videos, you can change it from full screen mode to see a couple videos. Or one screen at a time.

There's also a mode called side by side where you'll get the videos on one side, and then the slide on another. You can move the ribbon bar in the middle back and forth, and either make the videos bigger or the slides bigger. So play around a little bit with the Zoom interface to get the look and feel that makes the most sense for you. And we'll be excited to share the next hour with you.

Someone just asked where on the website can we find the packet. You can find it on the website in our Resources section. It also was emailed to you just about half an hour, 45 minutes ago from me, Jennifer Benz. There should be a link to download that worksheet there. If you don't find it, don't worry. We're still going to be able to take you through the session with no problem.

Any other questions, like Megan said, pop them in the Q&A box. And we'll go through those together.

Megan: I'd also add that we're recording this presentation. If you want to go back and revisit anything we discussed today, especially if you haven't had a chance to print out the worksheet that goes along with this presentation, you'll have it and we'll send the links to you after. No need to fret if you don't have the worksheet on-hand right now.

Jen: Yep. Yep. That's great.

Well, I want to say thank you again for joining us. I know it is just a crazy, crazy time right now for everyone. When we initially planned this webinar, it was many, many weeks ago before any of us knew what would be going on right now with the coronavirus and so much disruption. So we really appreciate you taking time with us.

We'll share some of the resources specific to dealing with the coronavirus at the end of the webinar. We did a webinar last week just on that topic; also there's a lot of resources available on Segal's website. So we'll talk about that a little bit at the end.

But just want to acknowledge that we really appreciate you joining us, and know that there's lots and lots of crazy things that you're juggling. We hope that you are all doing really well, as well as your families and your teams.

With that, I'll share a little bit about Segal Benz for those of you who don't know us. We're the communications arm of Segal, which is an HR and benefits consulting firm. We love to share this when we talk to new clients or we're at conferences or in formats like this.

We are so proud to be able to help great organizations like all of yours inspire people to improve their health, their finances, and their futures. We really specialize in HR and employee benefits communication, and especially love the really nitty gritty of trying to get people to engage in all of these complicated health and financial programs.

It's not the easiest to do, as you all know. Megan?

Megan: Yeah, this is one of my favorite topics to talk about. All the headwinds that people face with engaging with their benefits, engaging with decisions about their health, about their money.

There are so many things that get in our way. One that’s top of mind is just competing priorities; that's what a lot of us are experiencing right now. There's so much going on in our everyday lives. How do you get people to focus and put their attention on these important resources that they can utilize in crisis situations or everyday situations?

Some of the things that specifically get in our way, first and foremost, is the language that's used in both health benefit communications, retirement communications; unfortunately, industry jargon sometimes seeps into communication.

Most people are not benefits professionals. They haven't been working in finance for years. So they're not familiar with a lot of the terminology, whether it's investment options or deductibles and the vocabulary that's so important to the work that we do.

That's one of the biggest barriers to engaging people. But there's also a lot of cognitive and behavioral biases that we all suffer from. Building on that, when information is complex or you're overloaded with too much information at once, the tendency for individuals is to do nothing. The path of least resistance is the easiest thing to do.

If you wonder sometimes why no one took any action or no one responded to something that you asked them to do, it could be that it was simply too overwhelming. So they pushed it off to do later. And what happens is when you push it off to later, often it never gets done. That's what's known as status quo bias in the behavioral economic world.

Additionally, there is this concept called hedonistic tendency, which is a really fancy term for "we prioritize pleasure now over the future." This is one reason why we'll all be skinnier, we'll all have more money, we'll all be meditating frequently in the future. But right now, we don't have time for it.

It's just to recognize that future you is always going to do everything perfectly. But the current version of yourself has struggles with balancing all of these different priorities that you have at the moment. Unfortunately, sometimes the most important things—taking care of yourself—can get pushed aside for many other reasons.

That's why it's so important to have a really thoughtful communication strategy in place. That's one of the cornerstones of our 10 Keys to Unlocking Successful Benefit Communications.

What we noticed over years and years of working with clients, and some of our most successful clients, is that there was a pattern to the success that they have in terms of driving engagement. We found that the pattern revolved around three primary areas: foundation, marketing, and resources.

In the foundation, that's really the strategy that you set for the year; the goals that you put in place; the brand that you use and design to communicate, or that embeds everything or is wrapped around everything you present to your people. And a website, a place that is easily accessible, that everyone can access on the go, anywhere, at any time.

Building on that, once you have the infrastructure of the strategy brand and website, then you can really market those benefits to your people. One thing that you need to think about is getting feedback regularly from your people. Also always using simple language, but also using design to make things look easy or simple to use, so that they're more enticed to engage with your communications.

Year-round, reflect the importance of communicating on a frequent basis. Not just one time a year when you're asking people to enroll in their benefits, or the one time you make a change to the 401(k) investment lineup. The more that you can remind people of all the tools and resources that you have available, the more likely they are to use them when they're top of mind.

"Targeted" refers to thinking about the audiences and your population and sending relevant content directly to those individuals. "Employee experience" is a general term for the overall experience that people have from the day they walk in the door to the day they leave your organization, and how they interact with their benefits. Whether you know it or not, they're gleaning information from the way things are organized and presented to them.

Then finally, you can't really do anything without robust resources; or any resources such as having a budget, or having partners who may have resources that you can lean on if you have a thinner budget. So, that's an ultimate important thing to plan strategically for.

Jen: Great. Thanks, Megan. What's important about the 10 Keys is that this is really a formula that any organization can follow. I will bet any amount of money we have seen this work with every organization we've worked with, no matter how complicated or how simple; it doesn't matter what type of workforce you have or what industry you're in. This really is the formula for that communication approach that will get people to engage.

What we've done is we've really turned this into a methodology where we can score an individual organization on exactly how they're doing in each of these areas. Then figure out what the biggest areas of opportunity are.

That's what we're going to do with you today, essentially take you through that scoring for your own organization. Or if you're doing this for a client or multiple organizations, you can think about it that way, too.

But we're going to take you through the worksheet and talk through each one of these. And you can assess yourself on how well you're doing. Then we'll have some dialogue along the way.

Again, if you missed it at the beginning, you got an email about 45 minutes ago from me that has this worksheet as a PDF attachment. And we're going to go through that. If you don't have it, it's okay. You can just jot down your answers and we'll have you enter them in as we go through these. But we'll talk through each one of these keys and really be able to identify where your organization is, and where you can improve more.

Let's start with strategy.

Megan: Yeah, and I just would make one more point to what Jen just said, adding on that. That the 10 Keys is not just a diagnostic for where you are now, but it's also something we use with our clients to benchmark them on a year-to-year basis.

So, a client may be doing seven out of the 10 Keys really, really well. But we revisit it when we talk about strategy every year, to say, "Should we be addressing this key better? What can we do to make sure that we're reaching people in all the ways that are most effective?"

Speaking of strategy, this is one of my favorite things to do with clients. I think it's so important to focus on an annual basis; and sometimes more regularly if that is helpful in your organization.

It's really the game plan for the year. It sets in place the goals that you want to achieve; the frequency that you want to communicate; the timing of those communications—really, your game plan for everything that you're going to do.

This is really great because you can revisit it, like I said, on a yearly basis. You can document how you're doing against what you thought you would be doing. You could also use it as a way to engage senior leadership and to think about the broader role that benefits play in your organization in attracting and retaining talent.

It helps you think about that bigger picture, and not just the tactics of, "We need to send an email next week, and then in October we need to send an email. We need to send a postcard in December."

It gives you more of that higher-level thinking about the things that you want to achieve, and how you're supporting your organization and its goals to do all the things that it needs to do to keep its people engaged, happy, and productive.

Let's talk about the first question. We're going to ask you to think about this for your own organization. Do you have a documented benefits communication strategy with clear success measures?

The answers that you can choose from are A), Yes, and it is a key part of our success. B), Yes, but it could use some work. C), No, not yet. We're going to poll you right now. Jen, I think you have to poll on your end.

Jen: Yep. There we go. Ashley is behind the curtain.

Megan: Oh, Ashley, yep. Thank you.

Jen: You can pop your answer in there, then we'll see quickly how everyone stacks up. We should have some music here. Some interlude. Yeah.

While you guys are answering this and the poll is closing, I would just add that I think the most important piece of strategy is simply why are you communicating. We really believe that there's no point in communicating unless you're trying to drive a behavior or do something that's going to impact the organization in some way. So really understanding the "why" behind it, and being really concrete about that, this informs all of the other decisions that you make.

Megan: Yeah, and it also helps you better articulate why things matter, or should matter to employees. Because again, a lot of times if you see various communications it'll dive into "Here's a change, you need to either do Y or you need to do X. Or you don't need to do anything." And employees struggle to understand, "Well, what is the whole point of this change in the first place? And how does it affect me? Why does it matter?"

If you have that "why" articulated in your strategy, it will flow through to your people, to your members, and they'll better understand why they should take advantage of some of these programs or resources that you worked so hard to get in front of them.

Jen: Yep. Ashley, can we close that poll? Do we have enough responses? Alright. It should pull up here. Alright. This is really consistent with what we see when we do this workshop live. About 41% of you said you have a strategy, but it could use some more work. The majority said "No, not yet." And no one has said, "Yes, and it's a key part of our success."

This is consistent with what we see when we do this workshop live. Never fear. This is not something that is arduous to get in place. You can absolutely get a strategy in place. This is a process that we go through, and we really think about it as a cyclical process, as Megan said.

We're setting goals and objectives. We're understanding the audiences and their behaviors. Really figuring out what actions we want to drive with those messages. Measuring the outcomes, refining it, then starting all over again. So, this becomes a process that your organization goes through, year after year and campaign after campaign.

We'll share at the end of this section a lot of resources on our website that are going to help you get a strategy in place right away. We actually have a guide that will walk you through the process of creating your strategy, and we have an annual enrollment debrief worksheet that helps elevate a lot of those things. So never fear; this is something that you can get in place pretty quickly and easily.

So, let's go to the next one. The next key is brand.

Megan: Yeah, the next key is brand. This is often one of the keys that's most exciting to work on, or it's the most fun part to be involved with. I think it's also misunderstood in the sense that a lot of times people think it's the logo or the colors that you're using. That is a component of it, but it's also so much more than that.

It's the tone, the voice, and the approach that you take. It's the whole package altogether. And making something recognizable that your people understand is coming from you when they receive it, so it cuts through the noise and the clutter and everything else that they get in the mail, or everything else they get via email.

It's everything wrapped into one. And it should really reinforce and echo your organization's brand and positioning so that it is magnifying who you are and connecting to that overall employee value proposition: why you want to be the place that your people work at.

Let's go to the second polling question here. That is, "Do your benefits communications have a recognizable look, feel, and voice? And are they aligned with your organization's brand?" The answers are A), Yes, on nearly every piece. B), Sometimes. C), No, never.

Ashley, could you poll everyone on the webinar now?

Jen: Great. I notice on that last one that it looks like only about a third of the folks that are on this webinar submitted. If you are feeling shy, do not feel shy. Go ahead and pop your answer in there; it'll help us get more data. If you guys have questions along the way, we can answer them as we go, and as the polls are happening.

One of the things on brand, while everyone's answering this question, that I want to re-emphasize what Megan said, is this isn't just the logo. And it's not just, "Do things look pretty?" It's really that voice, that tone, that feel. And is this something that people can connect with emotionally? That's an important way to stand out from the crowd.

Ashley, can we wrap up that poll? Alright, this is great. About 45% of folks say that yes, nearly every piece is branded. Sometimes, about 40%. Then "no" got about 14% of the vote.

That's good. Megan, what is your advice for an organization that's deciding what pieces to brand, what not to? Should everything go out? What about the things that the vendors send?

Megan: Yeah, that's a good question. I think that the more that you can brand as yours is really beneficial. Because, one, it creates that consistency. It will be recognizable to your people when they receive it or when they receive something from you. It'll also help them connect that this is about their benefits and it's about their organization.

That's really important because people really trust their employer. They really trust them as a source of information. So they're more likely to interact with whatever the communication is, if they know it's coming from you.

This is an example of one of the websites we created for one of our clients. What's really fun about it and why we highlighted it here, is that it plays with our client, Krispy Kreme's brand. It has the logo, look, and feel like we talked about. But it also uses their work and their business and the language that is used to describe the benefits.

As you can see, it says, "Get the benefits while they're hot," or, "Savoring these sweet perks." There's a lot of fun language that's incorporated into something for the everyday lives of the people who work at this organization. It's recognizable, it creates a sense of fun and excitement, and also ties back to the value of their brand.

Again, it reinforces why they're a great place to work, and why and how they're supporting their employees in their everyday lives.

Jen: All right, the next one is website. Megan, will you take us through this one a little bit?

Megan: Yeah, let's go straight to the question here on the website. As I mentioned earlier, a website's really beneficial because people can access it anytime, anywhere. It's helpful if it's not password protected because then family members, spouses, and partners can access the information.

Let's ask this question here. "Do you direct employees to a single online resource that is user friendly and easily accessible to all employees and their families?" The answers here could be A), Yes, and it is password free and outside the firewall. B), Yes, but it requires a login or password. Or C), No, there is no website.

Jen: All right. Let's pop up that poll. The fun about these sites is really that accessibility is so, so key that you can just pop something up on your phone.

Here is ... I don't know if the light's going to work ... one of our client's websites. No password, just get to all of it, the critical information. And we see this as a really important

We see this as a really important strategy in times like this, where we have a need, a sense of urgency, to get all of this information out in a way that folks can access, and you can update frequently.

There is a little bit of a delay on the poll here. I'm not sure if it's not popping up. ... Ashley, maybe try to pop it up again, because we're not seeing it. ... Thanks for patience with our technical challenges.

Megan: Would it be helpful if you went back a slide, and then forward? Can we do that?

Jen: Sure.

Megan: One thing I would add about the websites while we're noodling on this  concept is that they're also easy to update in real time.

For example, for clients amidst this COVID-19 crisis, we've been able to get information out really, really fast to people. That is, one, it's helpful to get information out quickly, but you can also make adjustments along the way as situations like what we're currently experiencing unfold.

As more benefit resources are available right now, or more topics are changing with regard to legislation, we're able to update that in real time. Our clients' employees know that that's the first stop to go to find information.

Jen: Yep. Great. All right, well, here it's popped up. We'll just give it a moment more before we can close that out and see how everyone votes.

Times like this demand frequent communication. You also can get a resource in place relatively quickly. We've actually been launching microsites for clients that don't have a website, just to support the COVID communications.

Let's close out that poll and see what the results are. All right. About a third say it's password free outside the firewall. A little bit over half say, "Yes, but it requires a password." Then almost 20% don't have that resource in place.

I would say, for the folks that have something out there, but it requires a login or password, oftentimes those are the administrator's site. It's hugely valuable to get enough information out in front of the firewall so your people and their family members can get to that information without having to remember the login or go through the authentication process and so forth.

What's important to remember is that everyone's so distracted, as Megan shared at the beginning. We want to make it as easy as possible for them to engage. That means that the second they think about it, all that information is out there. And they don't get distracted by going to Instagram or something because they had to remember complicated password.

Here's an example of one of our client sites, Intuit. Their site was initially launched in 2007. So we've been able to see all that usage over more than a decade.

Here's a screen shot of Adobe's site. In Japan, their site is bilingual, which makes it a really, really good resource for folks there. There's just so many things you can do with these sites.

To wrap up this section, a couple of resources that are on our website to help you: We have the road map for driving communication; that's a piece that you can download. It'll walk you through exactly how we do strategy and planning.

Then, the open enrollment campaign debrief worksheet. Even though open enrollment seems like it was years ago, especially after the last couple of weeks, you can still use this to remember what was happening, what worked, and what didn't, and make that more successful the next time around.

Megan, anything else you would add on resources for wrapping up this section?

Megan: Yes, to access these pieces, you can just go to segalbenz.com and click on Resources. I think it's Insight Resources. They're just easy to find on our website.

Jen: Yep. Great. All right. The next section is about taking a marketing approach. A marketing approach for benefits communication is really how we elevate things so that they start to feel more like the things we engage with in our regular day-to-day lives.

We really identified five key components of taking a marketing approach that are pretty easy to say either Yes or No. You're doing these things or you're not. So let's start with the first one, which is feedback.

Megan: Yeah, this is something that is easy to do. You can poll your people on a regular basis and ask them what they're using, what they're not using. You can get a sense for whether they can find things or not. That will help give you insight into your strategy, and what you need to do to better to help match resources with people.

Let's ask all of you now: Do you collect, use, and respond to employee feedback? Answer A) is, Yes, frequently. Answer B) is, Yes, sometimes. Answer C) is, No.

Jen: Okay. Let's see if that poll will behave this time. There we go.

Megan: I know that a lot of our clients sometimes do really big formal surveys of their people on a two-year cycle, or an annual cycle. But you can also do more quick hits and do poll surveys. Focus groups are helpful. We'll give you some more ideas on that to think about. But it doesn't always have to be a really big undertaking, although those are always helpful as well.

Jen: Yep. Yeah, let's close out that poll, and see how the results look. Just one person says, "Frequently." The vast majority say, "Sometimes." Then, about 15% say, "Never." I'd say this is pretty consistent with what we see when we're working with organizations.

As Megan said, there are a lot of different ways to incorporate feedback. And they don't have to be intimidating, they don't have to be a huge endeavor that's going to require months and months to do. We love doing focus groups; they can be organized relatively easily. Quick surveys, user testing, and gathering data from digital channels like your website, like email.

So many things that you can do that don't require a huge effort. And incorporating that feedback with folks is so, so valuable.

Megan: One of our clients asks a few questions every year at the end of the annual enrollment. Another thing to think about is where and when do you have employees' attention that you can capture and use that captive audience and get an answer or two about their communications of benefits.

Jen: Yep.

Megan: All right. Let's talk about simplicity. We've touched upon this a lot throughout the presentation. I think I would just underscore here, it's not just the words that you use, but also the way information is presented. Design is equally important as editorial and content, in terms of making things not have too much information stuffed into one piece.

If you have white space, that helps people navigate content better. I'm curious for all of you on the line: Do you simplify messages, eliminate jargon so employees and family members can digest information quickly and take action easily? Answer A) is Frequently, Answer B) is Sometimes, Answer C) is Never.

Jen: All right, let's pop that poll up. Going back to what Megan said when we were starting, this is such a challenge in an industry that is just piled high with jargon and legal disclosures and compliance documents and so forth. But making things simple and really doing the work to simplify is a key way to get people to engage.

Megan: Yeah, one thing, just to add here is that it's helpful when you can make your compliance team your partners, or your legal team your partners. In the sense that if you work with them and you can take what they write, or have them interpret something, and then put it in plain English, and make sure that it captures and retains the initial intent of what was written, they will be so appreciative of that collaboration.

Then you can feel comfortable that what you're communicating, it's still following all the rules and saying things in a way that is keeping you on the straight and narrow.

Jen: Yep. We've been on the phone and video calls a lot with our compliance team the last couple of weeks, as all of this has been transpiring with the new legislation to support the coronavirus and so forth.

So, let's see if that poll will close, and see how we're doing. All right, this is great. About half say “frequently,” about 45% say “sometimes,” and then just a handful who are not simplifying things yet. This is, I think, one of the biggest challenges in what we do. But 100% worth the effort.

Let's talk about using multiple channels and communicating year-round.

Megan: Yeah, multiple channels simply means that you're using a variety of different vehicles for communication message to reach employees, and that you're doing so frequently.

I'll just ask the question right now. Do you communicate year-round using a mix of PUSH, which is information that you send out; emails or print brochures, postcards, and so forth? Versus PULL; those are the things that employees go to, or people go to on their own, like a benefit website or an intranet or administrative website.

Do you use a mix of those channels and tailor your content to each of those channels? Answer A) is Yes, and we use several channels. Answer B) is Yes, but we only have a couple. And C) is No, we don't communicate year-round.

Jen: Okay. Let's see how this goes on the polls. I would say in all of the organizations that we've worked with over the years, once you have those foundational resources in place, this is the biggest thing that changes measurable outcomes for an organization. We just simply can't have the expectation that people are going to use all their benefits correctly throughout the year, when we only remind them about them a couple times a year.

When we've worked with organizations and really turned that communication into a year-round calendar, we see incredible results in terms of how people are really using and participating in the benefits.

Let's close out that poll. All right, it looks like the vast majority of folks are communicating year-round. About 30% using several channels, about 60% using only a couple of channels. Then just a handful not communicating year-round.

For the handful that are not communicating year-round, this is your goal this year. Start to push out messages. Get a cadence in place that your team can support. Then for the folks that are only using a couple of channels, that's where going back to talking to your employee population or your member population is going to be really key. What else would help them? What are the other ways that you could stay top of mind for them?

Some of those channels can be very inexpensive. It doesn't have to be a big effort to get that in place. So when we think about communication channels, we think about all of the traditional channels; guides and newsletters and postcards and meetings and tip sheets. We think about everything that's online and interactive. Intranet, the benefits websites, email, webinars. I bet we're going to see an explosion of Zoom health fairs and Zoom annual enrollment meetings and things like that this year.

Then you can use the non-traditional channels. Really, anything that you can dream up around how to access information. We do everything from social media to videos and fun, clever installations. The key is that it's bite-sized information going out throughout the year, rather than piling everything on during annual enrollment.

Let's talk a little bit about targeted communication.

Megan: Yeah, this is a really helpful tactic in terms of matching people to relevant resources. You can think about the different audiences or segments in your population in many different ways. It could be there are multiple generations in the workforce now.

When you think about financial benefits in particular, there could be members who have pensions and have been contributing to a pension for a long time. And there could be newer hires that have no pension and are entirely saving for their own retirements on their own through a 401(k) or a defined contribution–like account.

So, there's different demographics, there's different populations based on where your businesses are located. You could have clusters of employees in different areas. You could have people that are out in the field versus people that are in offices. Hourly versus salaried employees. It really could span a lot of different areas.

You want to think about your audiences and who they are so that you can connect relevant messages, and more importantly, more relevant resources to them that would be most impactful. You want to make sure that those employees that are having children and building families, that you're getting information that are relevant to your backup daycare and things like that to that employee population.

Let's talk about this and see what you're doing. Do you use target information by life stage, mindset, demographics, and benefits usage so employees are confident in their choices and take appropriate action? A) is Frequently, B) is Sometimes, C) is Never.

Jen: Great. Let's pop up that poll.

Targeted messages are especially important right now, when we have something really complex that's happening like the coronavirus outreach. If you think about how different locations might be impacted differently, or how different segments of your workforce might have very different messages that need to get out there, perhaps your corporate folks are now working from home for the first time. But you have a large front line employee population who's working normally and needs messages about keeping safe and what their expectations are.

There's a lot of different scenarios that can really help when you have targeted channels in place. And the simplest way to think about this is that you have different versions of messages for different populations.

Megan: Even simply talking points. If you have people that are harder to reach, especially during a time like now, what talking points can you give managers so that they can get that information to the people that they are in direct communication and contact with?

Jen: Yep. So let's close that one out. Okay. About 11% do this “frequently,” 63% “sometimes,” and then about a quarter aren't targeting anything yet. This is a good area of opportunity to think about this year for folks that are not doing it yet as well.

Let's talk a little next about the employee experience. This wraps up the marketing segment.

Megan: Yeah, and this is something you might take for granted or not really think about sometimes. It's important for us all to think about how information is presented and the subliminal information that people get from that information sometimes.

An example that's unrelated to benefits, but I always like to highlight, is the buffet line in a restaurant. What study after study has shown is that people tend to take the first three things they encounter in the buffet line, no matter what the food is. So if you're thinking about how to help people make healthy choices, how you arrange the food in the buffet line makes a huge difference.

That is the same thing for how choices are presented to employees in benefits. The first thing that they see is often going to be the first choice that they make. This is a really important thing to think about in the way that investments are presented in 401(k) menus.

So, do you look at your employee experience holistically? And do you design programs and communications to help make the right decisions easier? A) is Frequently, B) is Sometimes, C) is Never.

Jen: All right, let's pop up the poll on that one.

I think this is such an important concept because it's really about not just the communication decisions that you make, but the administration decisions, the plan design decisions, the prioritization of people's time, or how much effort you give to certain topics. For example, in the new hire experience. All of those send a message about what's important.

It's very, very hard to overcome a really bad plan design with even the best of communications. And it's hard to encourage people to make the right decisions for themselves when you're not presenting them in a way that makes it easy to do so.

Let's close out that poll. Okay, about 75% are doing this “sometimes,” and the other 20%, “frequently.” Which is great, if you're doing this frequently. That's fantastic. We have some great resources that we'll talk about on this at the end of this section.

Megan, let's take a minute or two and talk about how this marketing concept comes together.

Megan: Yeah, we have a case study here and some examples from one of our clients to showcase how to pull all this together, as Jen mentioned.

We started working with Lenovo in the fall or summer of 2017. And followed the 10 Keys in terms of how we have been building their infrastructure, building a website, getting employee feedback, and then taking a marketing approach to commiserating their benefits.

One of the first campaigns that we launched was this campaign here, which were Five Benefits Not to Miss. As you can see, it uses really bold, eye-catching design and simple language that's based on their brand. They have a very bold and energetic brand, as you can see. So it's a lot of fun for us to work with. And it helps showcase benefits that sometimes don't get attention, or as much attention, as the medical plans or the retirement plans.

As we started to get to know them and work with them, focus on strategy every year, one of the things that they had told us over and over again is that they're really focused on helping meet employees, a needs-based approach. Helping people find the resources and tools that they need, when they need them. It's kind of a just-in-time approach.

They didn't want to, and they still don't, want to silo benefits like medical, dental, and so forth. They want it to really integrate with individuals and their lives so that when they have a problem, they know where to go and what tools and resources they can access.

So that was the inspiration behind this campaign here, called Life Hacks, which launched in the spring of 2018. The whole philosophy around this was to showcase these common challenges that we face in our everyday lives and connect the employees to resources that could support those challenges.

There was one example of, one hack about always pushing off writing a will. So on the back side of the card here, as you can see on the left hand of the screen, there's a problem and then there's an answer on the back of the interactive card. On the back side of that card, it linked them to a free estate planning resource. It also reminded employees to designate beneficiaries in their retirement plan.

I think around 13 or so Life Hacks, and they were around a variety of different areas. There was physical and mental well-being, money hacks, then also family hacks. They were so popular, and they were such a hit among both employees and their vendor partners that we had a second campaign called Even More Life Hacks.

In this campaign, we expanded the channels that we used. We sent a postcard home so that spouses and partners, that they were aware of this campaign, and they could access the information on their benefits website.

Again, one of the things that our client told us that she loved most about the campaign was just how relatable it was to their employees. And how it made a lot of these resources feel like tools and not something that they just think about once a year when they're enrolling in their benefits or annual enrollment.

So that's an overarching campaign that shows a lot of the different ingredients that we talked about, with simple messaging, using design, getting employee feedback, making it relatable, and so forth and the different Keys that we had talked about so far in the marketing section.

Jen: That's great. Thanks, Megan.

We have lots of resources on our site, on this marketing topic. We have a guide for choosing the right media for your communication. I'm just going to walk you through all of the different channels that are out there.

Then we also have a guide all around behavioral economics. It really talks about all of those levers that you can use to help encourage people to take action and get over that hump and those barriers to engagement.

The final section that we'll go through quickly is around resources. Really, do you have the right budget and partners in place to support your efforts? Let's dig right into budget.

Megan: Yep. The first question here is: Do you have a budget in place for communication? A) is Yes, and it's enough to ensure that we meet our goals. B) is Yes, but we need to allocate more. C) is No, we don't have budget for communication. So let's get that poll up right away.

Jen: Great.

Megan: As you're answering this question, one of the things that we always point out in this conversation, because we know sometimes it's hard to ask for more budget or to secure budget from your organization; in fact, even just 1% be such a valuable investment. It can go such a long way in getting your people to engage better with their benefits.

If you think about 1% of the overall benefits budget, may not be that much. Your organization spends so much money on the benefits themselves, increasing usage of a lot of them is so important. You really have to also equally think about communications of another program to invest in.

Jen: Yep. Absolutely. So we'll close that. About 23% say, "Yes, and it's enough to ensure we meet our goals." 41% say, "We need to allocate more." Then about a third say, "No, we don't have a budget right now for communications."

As Megan said, just getting that budget in place is so important. Making sure that you have the right focus is really key. There is really solid data out there. A study that was done by a university in the UK that says that if you do not communicate benefits, and people don't know that they're out there, you may as well not offer them at all. Because that has the same result in terms of the impact on the organization as not having the programs in place.

We have lots of resources to help you really focus on the value of benefits. As Megan said, it can be a very small investment to make a really, really big impact in your programs.

Jen: Someone has submitted a really good tip, which is that sometimes the health plan vendors have money for communications as another resource or part of their administration fee. That's absolutely true.

We often pull together those budgets from the different carriers, from the different administration partners. They want you to be successful with your goals, too. So it's a good place to find money.

And that really connects to our final key, which is about really integrating all of those partners, and making sure that they're aligned to meet your needs. Let's dig right into that, Megan.

Megan: Yeah, there are a number of different organizations that you can lean on for support for resources. They may have free resources that you can leverage. It's worth thinking about all of them really holistically.

Do you have providers? Your retirement plan provider that has free communication resources. Do you have examples from your health plan providers? Do you have internal communications that you can leverage? Or freelancers who you can bring in, that may be able to help bolster your efforts? Then finally, agencies such as ourselves.

There's a variety of ways that you can collaborate and use resources for a variety of different organizations. Let's ask all of you now: Do you integrate your vendors and external/internal partners to support your communications? A) is Yes, and we do it well. B) is Yes, but it needs some work. C) is No.

Jen: Okay.

Megan: As you are thinking about this poll, I would just echo what Jen said about health vendors, and the comment that someone made in the Q&A, being able to access those resources. Retirement plan providers in the defined contribution space have those resources as well.

They may offer you a communications budget if you're making a fund lineup change. Those are questions to ask in the RFP process or the bidding process, when you're exploring different partners to work with.

Jen: Yep. Let's close out that poll. Great. About 22% say, "Yes, we integrate the partners and we do it well." About 50% say, "Yes, but it needs some work." Then about a third say, "No."

One of the best resources, or one of the best ways that we do to integrate folks; if you're trying to get everyone to work together best, is also a comment that just came in. Which is to hold a vendor summit. Get all of those partners together in the same room, or in the same virtual room, which we've done at times. And help them see how they can all work best together.

Megan: Not just the summit, but on an ongoing basis, meet more regularly. One of my clients, we have monthly meetings. And we help facilitate that conversation so all of the vendors share all the different events that they may be thinking about in the coming months for the employees in this particular organization.

We help facilitate and cull all that information. Then we post it online. We have an Events page where all the different events are accessible to everyone, and they can find what's happening when and where.

Jen: Yep. That's great. So, a couple resources on our site are available for this. We have a Best Reads. These are downloadable PDFs that are a compilation of our most popular blog posts. We have one on utilizing your partners to support communications. Then we also have a whitepaper on the value of investing in communications. It really helps you build that business case, if you need more budget.

And the 10 Keys. This is a tool to help you build your budget and really see how things come together. If you have your worksheet, you'll see that on the last page, it asks, "How did you measure up?" If you answered mostly As, you're pretty much killing it right now. You're doing a great job.

If you answered mostly Bs, you're definitely on the right track. And those areas where you have Bs or Cs indicate what more you can be doing.

Then if you answered mostly Cs, don't worry, because you're not alone. A lot of organizations we start working with score really, really, really poorly the first time we do this. And it only takes six to nine months to start to get all the right pieces in place, and really, really elevate that communication experience and start to drive results.

Megan: And as we think about talking to participants and employees, I would add that if you're overwhelmed by all that you might need to do now, or think you might need to do based on your score, take a step back and think about, this is now your strategy for the next 12 months. And choose what areas you want to focus on first. You can build on this year after year.

You don't have to do everything at once, or try to accomplish all of the 10 Keys at the same time. It has taken our clients sometimes years to put all of these different things in place. And we work with them really step by step to making sure that they have the foundation, that they're communicating more regularly, or that they're targeting employees or members.

Don't get overwhelmed; just like we, in our everyday lives, get overwhelmed with things. Just think about what little things can you use now to make a difference. And doing so in an intentional way over the course of the next year. Then revisit that year after year.

Jen: Yep. Absolutely. The final resource that we'll share on this is the digital version of this big book. As I mentioned, we're happy to send you a printed copy of this. If you email us after, but it really has everything about the 10 Keys. Everything you need to know about them.

We're a little bit over on time, so I want to wrap up. Then we will do some Q&A at the end, if folks have questions. We're happy to stay online. We have a smaller group today, so we're happy to open the lines at the end and talk one on one as well, if folks want to stick around.

I'll just wrap up with our contact information. Please feel free to reach out to me or Megan anytime. We're always happy to chat or hop on the phone and talk through your particular situation.

Then I do want to mention that we know we're in the midst of just an unprecedented crisis right now that's going on with COVID-19. We have a lot of resources, along with our colleagues in compliance and the health and retirement practices. We've been trying to put together a lot of resources. You can find them on segalco.com and on segalbenz.com. So please check those out. We want to make sure that we're helping you navigate through all of this.

And thank you so much! This was a fun experiment. Hopefully, you enjoyed it. And if folks have questions, or if you want to hop on the line live with us right now, enter in the Q&A box and we'll be happy to stick around for as long as you guys would like to.

But thank you so much for joining us. We really appreciate you taking the time.

Megan: Yep, absolutely. Thank you for participating and making time out of your day to join us. We really, really appreciate you being here today and participating in this interactive webinar.

Jen: Great. Thanks, everyone. ...