If it’s about 6-8 weeks before open enrollment, you’ve started to realize that you’ve got a lot to do. The next 2 months are going to fly by in whirlwind of activity, so we are going to dedicate this week’s entire blog post to one of the most crucial - most absolutely essential - pieces of your open enrollment communication.
It’s time to create your benefit communication message map.
The official definition of a message map is “the framework built to create compelling, relevant messages, for various audience segments, that ensures alignment with positive and predictable outcomes.”
Or - for those that want the less official third-grade definition - the Who, What, When, Where, Why and How.
Now, I’ve got some awesome news – we’re already halfway done. Hooray! You’ll remember in our planning phase we touched on preparation for our different employee audience segments. We’ve decided who we are going to talk to, and now that plan designs and costs are close to finalization, what we need to let them know. We understand the why because we’ve already acknowledged our objectives and goals.
Let’s come full circle and close this loop by identifying the when, where, and how.
When timing is everything.
Sending multiple staff-wide emails the week before open enrollment, each with too many attachments and impending deadlines, can be overwhelming… and it’s the first step to causing employees to give up and disengage.
Instead of unloading everything on employees all at once, compile a calendar of important dates to release the information you’ve deemed most important – better known as your “message”. Your message should be delivered in an intentional and well thought out cadence leading up to and through the final days of open enrollment. You’ll want to plan for the tone of your messages to shift as open enrollment approaches, and then arrives; moving from education and announcements to actual instructions for action, and then shift again to tackle your last-minute reminders.
Also, creating a calendar will help you visualize the entire scope of your communication plan, allowing you to have a general overview of your content and frequency. When plans lay in front of you in a clear organized snapshot, it’s easier to identify where your message shifts need to happen, as well as any holes or opportunities you may have missed.
Change up your channels.
In part 2 of this series, we talked about identifying your communication channels, so you should have a good understanding of what company tools are at your fingertips. It’s important to remember that different avenues of communication reach different people, well, differently.
Employees that get 200 emails a day will probably glaze right over an email that gets lost in the shuffle. But, they might enjoy taking a break to listen to a cheery (or funny!) voicemail reminding them to be on the lookout for the benefit information they are about to receive by email. See what we did there? We created a multi-channel approach to a single end result.
Shaking up the action and mixing traditional benefit communication channels (emails, meetings, postcards) with the unexpected channels (social media, texts, video) will ensure you capture everyone’s attention in the way they choose to receive it. If you have decided to jump into the mobile technology pool with your benefits this year, most benefit apps offer pre-open enrollment tools to help get your feet wet. There’s no reason why you can’t get creative with your channel combinations and how they work together to be the most effective.
Just say what you need to say.
Your overall success will depend on your ability to create, curate, or facilitate content that your employees will be attracted to. The best way to do that? Provide simple information that will easily and quickly help employees decide to engage. Marketing professionals refer to this type of communicating as ‘snack-sized’. Try to keep in mind the Law of 7 Seconds; in less than 7 seconds your employees should understand exactly what your communication is about and what it is you’re asking them to do.
Ok, I know, I know… easier said than done. There’s no way around it, some elements of your communication campaign will need to be more informative than others, especially when it comes to the granular details of your benefit offerings. But, don’t assume just because things have always been done a certain way, that you can’t still follow our advice. Observe the following:
You can already hear the groans, can't you? They're coming from your employees as they click the email link you just sent to watch their semi-mandatory “2018 Benefits Webinar”.
Did you realize it’s almost an hour and a half long? Snoozefest.
Brace yourself to hear the excuses that have started rolling in…
Wouldn’t it be a game-changer to introduce this scenario instead:
Meet James, your hardworking employee.
What did we do there? We mapped out the delivery of a short important message for our employee, passing it through three interactive channels at a time most convenient for him.
But what did we really do?
We delivered 5-7 seconds of engagement, that drove to 3 minutes of engagement, that drove to what might end up being hours of engagement by the time it’s all said and done. We possibly just changed our engagement outcomes by taking an activity that no one really wants to do and turning into an activity that is easy for everyone to do, by dispensing it in small, relevant pieces.
You may have just come to the realization that this message map thing might be the single most helpful and important tool that your HR team will produce prior to your communication push in the next few weeks. You’ve probably already started panicking. Well, don’t… you still have sufficient time to make it great.
Be organized. Be detailed. Be thorough. Put the work in now, and your journey to open enrollment will be smooth sailing.
In Part 4 of this series, we’ll begin discussing the results of all your planning and hard message-mapping work… ideas for activities and materials that you’ll start promoting 4 weeks prior to open enrollment. See you then!
Catch up on our Open Enrollment Communication series.
Author: Kate Grooms, Chief Engagement Officer
Before joining the Grooms Benefit Solutions team, Kate specialized in internal communications for global healthcare companies such as Johnson & Johnson, McNeil Consumer Healthcare, and Baxter.
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