Worst plan design and communication failures


After hours of relentless analysis, you finalize your benefits package. You create a glossy booklet to provide to employees and even hold an enrollment meetings. But soon after, the grumblings among employees begin to spread. They are not happy with the benefits package.

Where did you go wrong?

You lost sight of employees.

For many businesses, the “voice of the customer” is an essential component of success. When it comes to benefits, your employees are your customer. And, guess what? They want to know “what’s in it for me”.

If you build a benefits package that is focused on the employer’s needs without consideration for the employee’s needs, it is likely to fail. Some thoughts to consider:

  • What benefits are we providing to employees?
  • How do the proposed benefits compare to what was provided in the past?
  • Is our benefits package comparable to other employers competing for the same employees/talent?
  • If I have to take away a benefit in one area, am I able to give back in another?
  • Am I giving employees the tools to maximize their benefits?

You used acronyms and cryptic text instead of plain language.

When you live and breathe the benefits world every day, it is easy to lose sight of what is “normal” language. Check out taboo words in your benefits communication for a few ideas on what to say and what not to say.

You didn’t help employees see how the plan affects them.

When you speak in general terms about a benefit, it may be difficult for employees to see how that benefit is going to work for them. Providing employees with decision support tools, resources and calculators can go a long way in helping them understand how the benefits might work for them or why they may need the benefit.

You had a case of benefits diarrhea.

Let’s explain. Too much of anything is a bad thing, even communication. If you throw too much at employees all at once, it is bound to lead to nervousness, system overload and ultimately a really messy situation.

Consider how much information employees can reasonably process and understand. Smaller chunks of information are going to be retained better. Sometimes it may mean you need to start communication a little earlier.

Slow and steady wins the race

By focusing on employee’s needs as well as your needs as an employer, you significantly increase your chances of everyone having a better benefits season.

Check out our other blogs on Open Enrollment and plan design: The Perfect Recipe for Your Pre-tax Benefit Account Program and Communication Best Practices – Open Enrollment.