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5 min read

We’ve all been there, it’s that time of year when you launch or re-launch a benefits programme or a set of benefit programmes through open enrollment. It’s one of our most critical and yet challenging tasks, with great responsibility and pressure put on us to get it right for our companies and for our employees.

Some of us may dread it, viewing it as an annual administrative headache, whilst others see it as an opportunity to engage with our employees, helping them make important choices for themselves and their families.

Well, I see preparing for your benefit launch as an opportunity, and an exciting one at that. It reminds me of how runners must feel as they prepare for a race — it’s something they’ve been preparing for over months, and are eager and anxious to get to the finish line and see how well they’ve performed, even getting that picture-perfect photo finish.

Isn’t it the same with your benefits programmes? Here’s how you can ensure your own photo finish…

Review last year’s activities

It’s absolutely critical to learn from the past, reflecting on both the successes and failures from the previous year. If it was a race you’d review your previous race time, think through where you did well in the course and where you had challenges, and finally if/when you had problems with your equipment (e.g. shoes, food, fluids). For our benefit programmes there are similarities, reviewing all that you did the previous year to determine what should be replicated and what should be changed regarding your timings, and taking a hard look at your challenges and equipment (in this case, likely your technology and messaging).  

An important part of this review is look at feedback from both your project team as well from your employees. Use this all to understand exactly what helped get you to the finish line and what slowed you down.


Set your objectives

Your next race awaits, so it’s time to set your goals. For your benefits programmes, common key performance indicators (KPIs) such as percentage of employees logging into the system, enrolling in the benefit(s) and/or making new choices can help you set objectives and how you’ll measure success. If you do a survey at the end of the launch, you could use KPIs such as percentage of employees saying they understood the benefits and their choices, felt they had enough information, etc. Whatever you do, don’t move onto the next step until you’ve set your objectives. If you skip this then just like a race, how will you know what to aim for (and celebrate!) at the end?

Create your plan

When running a race you’d normally set a race plan, figuring out how you’d pace yourself throughout the race, and what you’ll eat and drink to keep your energy up, etc. The same is true with your benefits launch where you likewise need a plan to get you over the finish line.  In my book “Effective HR Communication: A framework for communicating HR programmes with IMPACT," I talk about these six key reasons for planning:

  1. Forces you to think things through

  2. Gains agreement from the beginning

  3. Helps you manage challenges throughout the project

  4. You know who is doing what

  5. You know when each task is happening

  6. Helps you manage costs through the project


Create engaging content and messaging

According to a survey by the International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans, a U.S. nonprofit organisation, 80 percent of benefit plan participants do not read or open communications materials, 49 percent don’t understand the material and 31 percent don’t perceive the value in their benefits.  So you’ve got your work cut out for you when it comes to communicating. Here are a few ways to get those numbers back on track:

  • Consider a teaser campaign, something to grab their attention and get employees interested before your launch begins.  By doing this you create interest and excitement, getting people talking about this well before you begin.
  • Create a great headline and call to action to make sure they immediately know WIIFM (what’s in it for me).  If you don’t do this upfront employees most likely will ignore everything and anything you send their way.
  • Segment your communications, creating focused, targeted messages aimed at each specific piece of your audience. By doing this employees will again be able to quickly see the WIIFM.
  • Since we all know that a one-size-fits-all approach never works, create a multimedia approach. This gives you two big wins — first, you make sure you are appealing to your diverse workforce, and second you are sending out multiple messages as we all know that you have to say something multiple times to be heard. Say it once and it’s lost, say it often and it’s found!
Bring together a team

One of the best ways to train for a race is to find your allies. Whether that’s others to train with, a coach or support from your loved ones to just “do you best,” it’s always better with people in your corner. The same is true with your benefits launch, as you can’t do something this big or this important alone. Key members include your project team - helping you share the workload and brainstorm ideas, your managers — you can’t do it without their support to engage with their team members, and champions — who are true advocates and knowledgeable of the benefits programmes they’re championing.

So tell me, are you ready for your next race yet?

Debra Corey

Debra Corey is an author, world-class speaker and HR consultant, paying it forward by inspiring and helping others around the world to bring out their inner rebel and drive strategic and meaningful people and business change as the Chief Pay it Forward Officer at DebCo HR. Her career spans 20+ years developing and delivering HR strategies in a rebellious way, pushing the boundaries and challenging the status quo to truly drive employee engagement.

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