Liz Sheffield

How to Market Employee Benefits as Part of Total Compensation

The end of the year can be a delicate time for employers and HR decision-makers. Employees might expect a pay increase as they enter the new year — and if they don’t get it, popular perceptions about lagging wages could push them to start looking for a new job. If you’re worried about retention but operating on a limited budget, don’t empty your wallet trying to keep your best talent. Instead, communicate with your employees about their total compensation, not just the deposit you make into their bank accounts.

To boost employee benefits participation and keep your employees happy, start by thinking about how your business markets its offerings. That’s right — the same principles you use to market your business to customers can double as strategies for educating employees about your benefits.

Remember, you offer employees more than the benefit of a regular paycheck. Your workforce gets access to multiple kinds of employee benefits when they show up to work every day, and it’s on you to get the most value out of those benefits by marketing them properly. Don’t know where to start? Try repurposing these five marketing tactics for your company benefits communication strategy.

1. Know Your Market, or: Understand Barriers to Participation

As you begin looking at how to market your benefits programs, conduct focus groups or use online surveys to gather data about why some employees choose to participate in your plans and what prevents others from doing so. The information you collect will help you craft your messages to meet the needs of your target audience. Your benefits communication plan should seek to answer the questions employees have as well as demonstrate the value of participation in the plans.

2. Diversify Your Marketing Strategy, or: Use a Variety of Formats

When you’re communicating about your company’s benefits offerings, use different kinds of messaging to reach different employees. Some employees will respond best to videos or a “lunch and learn” lecture. Others may want to read the information at home or review an infographic that visually depicts the value of a given benefits option. To get your message across, use variety to your advantage by connecting with potential participants in the ways that they prefer to receive information.

3. Leverage Your Assets, or: Invite Employees to Serve as Benefits Advocates

Just as brands hire spokespeople to persuade buyers to see the value of a product or service, you can recruit employee benefits advocates to share their experiences with the various types of employee benefits you offer. What did they get out of using the programs offered as part of your compensation package? What discounts have they enjoyed? How has their life improved because of the wellness classes, gym membership or health care benefits your organization makes available? Ask benefits advocates to encourage their colleagues to participate and to share how your total compensation package makes a positive difference in their life.

4. Position Yourself Above Competitors, or: Present the Risks of Not Participating

Nearly every marketing strategy has to take competitors into account. In the case of your business, the popular alternative to using your benefits is likely to simply go without them — so that’s the alternative to beat.

Many benefit programs require minimum enrollment numbers to afford better rates and generate savings. Without an adequate number of participants, your organization may not receive the anticipated cost savings of the benefit. Even if they do choose to participate, not using benefits properly can also cost employees. By some calculations, the consequences of not choosing the appropriate health insurance can cost an employee roughly $750 a year. While you shouldn’t use scare tactics to encourage participation, giving employees the resources to learn what a difference benefits can make for them helps to illustrate the advantage of participating in the right employer-offered plan.

5. Build Consistent Customer Loyalty, or: Engage Employees Year-Round

Preparing for benefits enrollment doesn’t happen overnight. Extend your benefits communication efforts to the months before open enrollment, and never be afraid that you’re overcommunicating. Thanks to competing priorities and busy days, it will probably take a little nudging and multiple rounds of reminder emails for employees to take the proper steps to enroll. It’s also possible that an employee will experience a life event that helps them realize that they need to take advantage of one of your offerings. Having a year-round marketing and communication plan for employees’ total compensation ensures your workforce has information at their fingertips and when they need it most.

In the end, these “marketing tactics” are really just ways of optimizing office communication and making sure that employees have informative, engaging reminders about the types of employee benefits your company offers. Employees who have a thorough understanding of the benefits available to them are more likely to actually use them — and to appreciate everything that goes into their total compensation beyond their salary, turning benefits into a viable retention strategy. You don’t have to reinvent the wheel just to get your employees to use their benefits. All the tools you need are right here.

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