It’s no secret that health benefits are complex. Health benefits are also personal. In today’s highly charged health care landscape, communicating any changes related to health care benefits needs to account for this more than ever.
A recently robotic, convoluted benefits letter I read reminded me about this. The letter was supposed to inform people about a bunch of changes and things they have to do by certain dates. I had to keep rereading the letter to figure out what the company was trying to say and what action readers had to take. The basic point of the letter was to let everyone know that a new company was going to administer the benefit by July 1. At the end of the letter, it indicated the next monthly premium payment. I noticed right away that the premium went up by $20. Did someone miss this rate increase explanation somewhere amidst the robotic mumbo jumbo? Nope. There was no mention of the rate increase. Anywhere. Was the rate increase simply a mistake? Another confusing point was that while the change was effective July 1, the company enclosed a payment coupon for June.
This letter got us thinking about some key things to think about when crafting benefits messages – especially about changes:
- Provide straightforward context about why the changes are happening. Why did you choose a new benefits administrator? How will employees benefit? Will they notice any changes in service?
- Lose the robotic language. Don’t start the letter with “Effective immediately” or “Effective [date].”
- Don’t bury important changes. Um, like premium rate increases. Premium increases are touchy and should be acknowledged thoughtfully. (Hopefully, the increase is a mistake.)
- Be compassionate. You’re writing about a sensitive topic. Enough said.
- Clearly list steps to take. The information is complex enough. Spell out clearly what employees need to do and when.
- Test pilot your communications. Share your drafts with a few people whom the change will impact. Ask them for honest feedback about what is clear and what isn’t.