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Use Good Benefits Communication Tools, and Wake Up the ‘Young Invincibles’

The young professionals on the bus seat behind me were talking about this year’s medical benefits, and I listened in.  It’s my business.  (Benefits, that is … not eavesdropping.)communication

“Benefits sign-up time.  I hate it.  They’re sending me those thick envelopes, but I just don’t get it.”

  “Do the math.  Just decide based on money.  If I go to the doctor, it costs money.  Eating healthy costs more than roller dogs for lunch and happy hour snacks after work and Frosted Flakes in the morning.  I’m signing up for the cheapest premium possible and spending my money on tuning my ride.  I want the cash, not some foo-foo benefit that I may or may not use.”

“I know what you mean.  They always say the same thing with big words and small actions, on the same boring forms.  More cost, less stuff.  They talk wellness, but I need a payback now.  If I get sick, I’ll deal with it then.”

I resisted the urge to interrupt and explain the value and importance of their benefits.

What did I learn from this?  That it takes powerful communication to get through the “fog of war” that we all live in.  That everyone is focused on benefits to themselves.  That everyone is looking for a quick, simple fix for whatever ails them.

Learn why many wellness program benefits aren’t being used—and what you can do to change that, when you attend: Wellness Program Engagement: Why These Benefits Aren’t Being Used—and What You Can Do About It, on Tuesday, March 13, 2018. Click here to learn more, or to register today!

What does it take?  We need to get outside the box in how we reach the “Young Invincibles.”  If you hand a paper enrollment information packet to a Baby Boomer, they grumble, get out their reading glasses, review the tables, and then sign up for the most coverage they can afford that includes pharmacy for their chronic conditions.  Gen X?  They skim the paperwork, talk to their friends and family about getting the most for the least, and sign up for the mid-priced package.  Millennials?  They never open the paper packets and sign up for the least expensive benefit package allowable.  Hey, they’re never getting sick.

Three simple rules for modern benefits communication:

  1. Know your audience.
  2. Go where they are, and use the channel and language they use.
  3. Make it simple.

Oh, and a fourth rule … get outside the box.

I know, you don’t have time to do it differently.  You, as benefits professionals, barely have enough time to read your weekly 100 pages of new Affordable Care Act (ACA) guidance from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) mother ship.  You have a flood of requests for your time on individual cases.

The secret sauce is using the right tools for the job, and the stakes and challenges are doubling every year.

What stakes?  The cost of benefits and the shifting reporting requirements of the ACA.  What challenges?  The overwhelming marketing chatter that surrounds all of us, and the climbing expectations of human nature.

You know about the chatter.  The volume of marketing messages hitting us keeps climbing.  The stress levels are climbing right along with the volume.  I just saw a new survey that showed that the short-term memory losses for the youngest generation—the Millennials—is WORSE than the oldest generation, and the gap is blamed on stress levels in the younger workers.  These are the benefits consumers that are the most crucial for us to reach.

So, stop reading this and look around your workplace.  Take inventory of what tools you have for communication and what audiences you need to communicate with.  Then, and this is the tough part, figure out the gaps.

Your assignment?  Figure out how to get outside the box, and get there first.

Karl AhlrichsKarl Ahlrichs, SPHR, is Consultant and Business Developer for Gregory and Appel. He has broad experience in senior level problem solving, with proven skills in handling complex organizational issues with uncommon sense. Mr. Ahlrichs is a national speaker and author who joined Gregory & Appel after serving as a founding partner of ExactHire, a human resources services firm. He also served as a Senior Consultant for Professional Staff Management. He was in business development in the Indianapolis office of Marsh & McLennan, and Vice President of Right Management Consultants. Mr. Ahlrichs facilitates an invitation-only roundtable for Indiana CFOs, and was the program chair for the Indiana Society for Human Resources Management annual conference for more than a decade. He is a member of HRPDA, SHRM, the American Society of Training and Development, and the Association for Psychological Type. He is president of the Indiana Chapter of the National Speakers Association, and was named the SHRM Human Resource Professional of the Year for the State of Indiana. Mr. Ahlrichs has presented at the National SHRM Conference for 10 consecutive years.

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Use Good Benefits Communication Tools, and Wake Up the ‘Young Invincibles’


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