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Would You Like Benefits with That? Benefits Communications for Blue-Collar Service Industries

Lauryn Nosek

Lauryn Nosek

service worker in the fieldEvery human resource department faces its own challenges when it comes to strategizing for benefits communications like open enrollment and onboarding. There are almost too many ways to segment the workforce and weigh the needs of the resultant pieces before making decisions. Some industries face additional challenges when it comes to communicating. Manufacturing, construction, service, hospitality, and other blue-collar industries are among those with large workforces unlikely to spend the workday sitting at a desk with ready access to email and for whom scheduling large group meetings to present employee benefits offerings and open enrollment procedures is next to impossible.

Where do these stumbling blocks leave HR in terms of updating traditional communication methods to digital solutions?

The Fine Print: The Pros and Cons of Print Campaigns

Employee benefits and open enrollment can cause a company’s carbon footprint to swell as they order printings of thick benefits guides (which require annual reprinting even with minimal year-to-year changes), reminder notices for mailings, handy sheets with helpful healthy-living tips and instructions outlining the enrollment process. All it takes is a typo in the wrong place to double the printing charges (or more than double if there are rush fees)—and that doesn’t include the costs associated with designing the various components.

So why do some companies continue to rely heavily on print campaigns at open enrollment time? While not all employers will have an internal email addresses for their workers, they do need and have mailing addresses. It can seem like a more dependable way to reach everyone, especially for blue-collar workers. Printed materials are also tangible and can be considered a more reliable resource and reminder, but they often get thrown in the trash or recycling bin with junk mail. They’re familiar to older generations as well. It’s what traditionally comes to mind for them when enrollment season comes around. Millennials and other young workers’ expectations default to digital communications, especially for matters like the enrollment process, which is completed online—how many health-plan providers even provide hard-copy elections anymore?

Expectation vs Reality: Shifting to Digital

While there are still segments of the workforce that expect to receive a pile of paperwork outlining annual benefit options, receiving that information in a digital format isn’t as shocking or daunting to them as it might have been even five years ago. Smartphones are everywhere, which means computers are everywhere. Think of how many flip phones you see these days and the growing trend of dropping landlines altogether. Even workers out in the field are increasingly accessing digital content with relative ease. Tablets connected to cloud networks are being integrated into many service industry operations already. Digital communications are the norm rather than the exception, so even those employees who might expect healthy living fliers in the breakroom are going to wonder where the digital component is.

open enrollment communication example QR codeWhat these industries need is a digital communication option that can be shared via text message or accessed through QR codes. These allow companies to scale back on printed materials without eliminating them entirely, which help HR teams maximize their impact while minimizing cost. Many companies use alert systems that send messages across multiple platforms, including text messaging and QR codes can be printed on posters or mailers and then scanned by workers using a smartphone. These put key messaging right in workers’ hands and give them flexible, on-demand access to cheaper, digital versions of costly-to-print materials like benefits guides, which can then remain easy-to-update PDFs. (Scan the QR code at the right to see a sample open enrollment communication.)

Benefits enrollment efforts like our digital postcard campaigns make it easier for companies in these industries to branch into other modern approaches too, like using video to create engaging messaging, providing additional benefits education (something millennials frequently need), and reducing the need for time-consuming, one-on-one meetings with HR staff.

Turning over a New Leaf: Communicating Benefits Beyond Annual Enrollment

food service workerOpen enrollment season isn’t the only time of year when benefits communications are important. Service and hospitality industries are notorious for their high employee-turnover rates so employee benefits are a year-round concern. The costs of recruiting and hiring new workers, then training them on both the job and their benefits are hardly insignificant. You can trim these costs, however, when you digitize steps of the process and associated materials.

Transitioning our open enrollment digital postcards into new-hire orientation and training materials is a simple and cost-effective fix. The benefits messaging isn’t going to change much during the coverage year and applies to a broad range of incoming employees. Rather than putting together thick welcome packets and overwhelming newcomers with benefits information on top of daily standard operating procedures, point them to a resource they can explore at their own pace, at a time and place that suit them—on their lunch break, while they’re commuting on public transportation, or at home when they can share it and make decisions with their family’s input.

Oxymoronic as it sounds, our digital postcard campaigns simultaneously provide personalized experiences (the individual chooses how to access and navigate the material) and standardized content (the available resources and messaging are the same for everyone).

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