Plugging Into the 10 Commandments of Benefit Communications

You know the fall is here and that it’s back to business when you attend your first conference of the season. For me, that conference is the 23rd Annual Benefits Forum & Expo, sponsored by Employee Benefit News, that started Sunday in Boca Raton, Florida.

I’ve attended this conference in the past, usually here in Florida, and it’s one of the few of these that actually starts on a Sunday with some substance. While many HR-related events unwind slowly with a cocktail party and reception on the first night, the Benefits Expo starts fast with a keynote speaker (in this case pollster and researcher Frank Luntz), some awards, and an open exhibit hall with cocktail reception.

That’s a lot for a Sunday, and although I appreciate the aggressive Day 1 approach, it also means that you lose attendees who have arrived but are busy hitting the beach or the golf course. That’s too bad, because they not only missed some great hors d’oeuvres and sponsored cocktails (always the best kind, of course) in the exhibit hall, but a pretty thoughtful talk by Luntz, too.

I didn’t know what to expect from Luntz because I have never heard him before. In addition, he got a pretty big windup with an introduction that included superlatives such as “America’s Top Pollster and researcher,” “the hottest pollster in America,” and my personal favorite, “the Nostradamus of pollsters.”

A speech worth listening to

Okay, so maybe the windup was a bit over-the-top, but Luntz’ presentation was chatty, engaging, and very informative. He was good enough that I wouldn’t mind hearing him speak again.

His speech had a long-winded title – Addressing Health Care Challenges in the Workplace and Beyond – but it was really about communicating better with employees, specifically about health care. And Luntz used a series of statistics from surveys and polls to show how critical good communications are given how negative and pessimistic workers are after the Great Recession and ongoing economic downturn.

He listed his 10 Commandments of employee communications (specifically when communicating benefits to employees). They are:

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  1. Simplicity;
  2. Brevity;
  3. Credibility;
  4. Consistency;
  5. Novelty;
  6. Sound and text matter (that is, how you say it and the printed materials you give them);
  7. Speak aspirationally;
  8. Visualize;
  9. Ask a question; and,
  10. Provide context/explain the relevance.

Luntz said that surveys found that when they asked workers what part of their compensation package was most important to them, health care came out on top at 39 percent. But when they were asked what their top complaints were about their health care coverage, 59 percent of employees said premiums were too much and fees and co-pays were too high.

What we want/believe about health care

In short, when you ask what Americans want from (and believe about) health care, it comes down to these things:

  • Health care is a right, not a privilege;
  • We are humans, not numbers;
  • We want the treatment we need when we need it;
  • Protect the doctor-patient relationship;
  • An end to waste, fraud, and abuse; and,
  • Everyone, everywhere should have it.

There was a lot more, of course, but the presentation by Frank Luntz was extremely insightful about what your employees are feeling and what you can do to help them with both their benefits and their lives.

And one more thing to keep in mind: Pollster Luntz said that if you say you announce that the company is changing benefits, that your employees hear something else  — that they are going to be getting less. That frequently is not the case, of course, but it just goes to show you how critical it is to properly communicate with your workforce – especially on a subject as critically important as benefits.

John Hollon is Editor-at-Large at ERE Media and was the founding Editor of TLNT.com. A longtime newspaper, magazine, and business journal editor, John has deep roots in the talent management space. He's the former Editor of Workforce Management magazine and workforce.com, served as Editor of RecruitingDaily, and was Vice President for Content at HR technology firm Checkster. An award-winning journalist, John has written extensively about HR, talent management, leadership, and smart business practices, including for the popular Fistful of Talent blog. Contact him at johnhollon@ere.net, connect with him on LinkedIn, or follow him on Twitter @johnhollon.

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