Tag Archives: employee communications

Communicating to employees during a pandemic

This spring has been an interesting and challenging time to be a business leader. As the workplace location, habits, and culture across the board have been turned inside out, leaders have had to think differently.

Returning to the workplace

While the move to working from home happened quickly, the return to work will be slower and more complicated. If you haven’t made movement back to workspaces and office buildings, think carefully about all of the implications of our new six-feet-apart world. How will you handle an employee who refuses to wear a mask when required? When will you open the kitchens and make coffee and water available? How many people will you allow in a restroom at a time? Do people have to walk clockwise around the space? Where do you put hand sanitizer stations? Setting aside all of the logistics, how do and will employees feel?

Tips for employee return-to-workplace communication

Like any other workplace change, making sure employees are aware and understand this new world will be equally as important as the actual changes themselves. Training, education, and effective communication are key aspects of many of the local requirements for returning to office buildings. Required or not in your area, they should be your top priority in the process of returning employees to any common workplace, in any location. As you begin to think through your employee communication strategy, below are a number of tips to keep in mind as you communicate return-to-workplace situations. We recommend working in partnership with a trained consultant and your legal counsel to ensure that you meet the requirements for your location (if any) and so that your employees recognize you take their health and safety seriously and understand what is expected of them.

  • Start with developing a clear and detailed safe work plan; review any policies that need to be updated
  • Write in plain, easy-to-understand language
  • Use images and diagrams where appropriate
  • Outline what the building management is doing, how the company is supporting this effort, and clear expectations for employees
  • Partner with Human Resources and legal counsel; they can help you steer clear of perceptions of discrimination and other potential employee relations or legal issues
  • Get input from your senior leaders; they should be knowledgeable and included well before you communicate to employees
  • Train your managers and supervisors on the safe workplan and what is expected of them; they are the front line of employee communications
  • Use different media to supplement a written plan; hold a webinar and record it; create a video; leverage your online employee portal; do a podcast
  • Make good use of signs throughout the office to help with key behaviors
  • Be clear where employees should go with questions
  • Start communicating well before individuals are allowed (or expected) to return to the workplace
  • Explain that the situation is fluid and manage expectations by noting that when new information becomes available the plan will be updated; communicate those key changes with leadership and employees

Careful not to overdo it

Especially now, employees want to understand what you are doing to keep them safe and to believe that you care. But you don’t want to overdo it either. Whether it’s due to a lack of trust or excess worry, some organizations are holding many more meetings than usual to “check-in,” which employees can find invasive and intrusive. If “eyes on your employees” was your primary form of performance evaluation, you might be feeling unsettled in this new work-from-home arrangement. In most situations, you’ve likely hired responsible, talented people who want to, and will, do good jobs under any circumstance. Trust they will and reward them when they do. Tip: Let them dictate the check-in frequency. Be willing to tailor your approach to the communication needs of the individual(s) or group(s). Then, over time, survey your employees and ask them how it’s working (the frequency, content, etc. of the communications).

Wherever you are along this journey, just don’t forget employees’ needs have shifted and will likely continue to change. Be flexible and willing to adjust your communication approach constantly. As you prepare for the next phase, whatever that might be for you, look for that Goldilocks communication approach—not too much, not too little, but just right.

COVID-19: 8 Tips for improving employee communication in a time of crisis

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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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
  5. 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.
  6. 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?
  7. 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.
  8. 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.

This blog post first appeared on Retirement Town Hall.

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.

This article first appeared on RetirementTownHall.com.





The power of personalization

tenBroek-HeidiKernich-DanaMaking decisions about health coverage is difficult. Medical jargon, network limitations, and vague pricing contribute to the minefield of confusion experienced by even educated employees. According to a recent survey, only 14% of Americans can accurately define basic healthcare terms such as deductible, copay, coinsurance, and out-of-pocket maximum.1 In order to be smart consumers of healthcare—making the best decisions for themselves and keeping costs in check for employers footing the majority of the bill—employees must be able to understand the coverage offered to them. Personalizing health coverage communications can help employees, and ultimately their employers.

Marketers have demonstrated for years that personalization works:

• Personalized emails deliver six times higher transaction rates (customer actions such as sales or subscriptions) than non-personalized emails2
• 73% of consumers prefer to do business with companies that use personalization to make their shopping experience more relevant3
• 86% of consumers say personalization plays a role in their purchasing decisions4

If it works, use it! Personalized materials provide more focus for better decision making and leave employees feeling less overwhelmed by confusing information. Creating these materials isn’t as difficult as employers might think. Here’s an example of how an employee enrolled in a standard preferred provider organization (PPO) plan could be introduced to the potential cost savings of a high-deductible plan:

The power of personalization

1Lowenstein, G. (September 2013). Consumers’ misunderstanding of health insurance. Journal of Health Economics 32, no. 5: 850-862.
2Experian Marketing Services (December 2013). 2013 Email Market Study: How Today’s Email Marketers Are Connecting, Engaging and Inspiring Their Customers. Retrieved February 11, 2016, from http://www.experian.com/assets/marketing-services/white-papers/ccm-email-study-2013.pdf.
3 Nasri, G. (December 10, 2012). Why consumers are increasingly willing to trade data for personalization. DigitalTrends.com. Retrieved February 11, 2016, from http://www.digitaltrends.com/social-media/why-consumers-are-increasingly-willing-to-trade-data-for-personalization/#ixzz2g8dgrqko.
4Infosys (December 2013). Study: Rethinking Retail: Insights From Consumers and Retailers Into an Omni-Channel Shopping Experience. Retrieved February 11, 2016, from https://www.infosys.com/newsroom/press-releases/Documents/genome-research-report.pdf.