Gladis, a member of the HR team, is huddled over her computer. As she readies to email the last Open Enrollment communication, she lingers over the send button. It’s a good moment to take a second to appreciate the good work - it was an intense six-week campaign. Yet, she can’t help but feel a tinge of anxiety: many new employees have subscribed to the HDHP, and six weeks isn’t nearly enough education to get them ready to navigate the healthcare system. Even so, communicating more seems like wasted effort. Afterall, employees will just ignore the messages – won’t they?
This scene plays out on HR teams across America. But if you happen to be an HR professional, we have some good news to share: our data shows the fear of being ignored outside of Open Enrollment is unfounded. In fact, the reality is quite the opposite. The more frequently an employer communicates about benefit programs, the more employees engage. We’ve found the “magic number” of times you should aim to communicate per year to be twenty-six, or the equivalent of every other week. This provides ample opportunities to drive employee engagement in a variety of cost containment programs, without overwhelming employees or the HR team.
To illustrate why more frequent communications are so effective, one of our customers, Chesmar Homes, has kindly agreed to allow us to share their data. Chesmar has 250 hard-to-reach employees that are often working remotely in the field. Employee communications go out every other week, or about twenty-six times a year.
In May of 2019, the HR team used Airbo to communicate with employees twice. Even though Open Enrollment was long forgotten, 72% of employees engaged in the first message and 66% of employees engaged in the second one. Those are very good numbers, yet it seems like a third of eligible employees didn’t tune in. Or did they?
This is where the compounding effects of more frequent communications come into play. Chesmar knows that some employees will miss a message, that’s a big part of why they communicated twice in May. They want to give their employees multiple opportunities to engage, and it paid off: 81% of their employees read at least one of the two messages during the month. By communicating twice, Chesmar engaged 9 – 15% more employees than any one message could alone.
To understand why providing employees with multiple opportunities to engage is so important, join us for a simple mental exercise. Imagine sending a benefits newsletter to a group of employees. Salesperson Mary is busy preparing for a big presentation starting in 10 minutes, so she ignores your message and it’s quickly buried in her inbox. But if your message arrived as she was staring at her phone at the checkout line at the grocery store, she would have happily scanned through it. Mary’s – and all employees’ – willingness to pay attention to benefit communications varies depending on how busy they are with other parts of their life. As a result, at least a third of employees usually don’t read any given communication you send. By communicating more often throughout the year, you’re maximizing your chances of reaching an employee when they’re most likely to tune in.
This effect is even more pronounced in the quarterly numbers. For the second quarter of the year (April – June), Chesmar reached over 93% of employees. We analyzed this data mid-June, so it’s a safe bet that this number will continue to increase. That’s pretty incredible, but also very indicative of the data we typically see from companies that follow a bi-weekly communication schedule.
As you’ve seen through Chesmar’s data, employees are far from being saturated with too many benefit communications; they’re actually very willing to engage. The real reason that benefits messaging is often missed is quite simple: it’s usually not as urgent as something else that demands an employee’s attention. As a result, it’s deprioritized and unintentionally ignored. Provide people with opportunities to fit benefits learning into their lives, and they’ll eagerly take you up on it.