Are you missing the mark with your efforts designed to promote wellness, as well as target other population health issues? Is this inability to effectively target the right employees as well as drive real behavioral change driving up your claim costs, and ultimately your premiums?
If you’re like most small businesses, you’re relying on your employee benefits broker to help out in this area. Unfortunately, most brokers aren’t equipped to help you “unearth” these issues and they certainly aren’t staffed to help guide any effort towards taming your workforce’s true health issues. In fact, when faced with this challenge, most brokers typically hand their clients a set of somewhat generic carrier-generated posters and flyers and call it their “strategic communications plan.”
Here is what you should expect from your employee benefits broker and why customized content is far more effective than cookie-cutter fliers in the break room.
Flying Blind With Generic Marketing Pieces Just Doesn’t Cut It
Setting aside the inability to identify and target true population health risks for a moment, let’s just talk about the efficacy (or inefficacy more likely) of these communication materials. Generic fact-sheets frequently miss the mark because they are written for such a general audience that they fall flat and lack a meaningful call-to-action.
For example, asking your employee benefits broker for a fact-sheet about losing weight through healthy eating might result in an “eat your vegetables” poster taken directly from the insurance company. Do your employees really not know the benefits of eating vegetables by now? And is a lack of vegetables in their diet really what’s causing your obesity issues (assuming your workforce has obesity issues in the first place)?
Let’s consider this marketing approach in two other industries. Have you ever received e-newsletters or in-home flyers from your auto insurance agent or real estate broker? They are stuffed with anecdotes like “How to winterize your vehicle before the snow hits,” or “How to grow the greenest garden this summer.” Typically, these marketing materials wind up going straight into the trash.
Why? Generic newsletters like these just don’t hit home with a target audience. They’re devoid of real value and rarely give the reader any information he or she was actually looking for. Perhaps these e-newsletters would have been more beneficial had they included content such as “The Ten Most Dangerous Intersections in Phoenix,” or “What To Do If You Are Driving When A Haboob Dust Storm Hits.” Now the reader is interested and the content can provide real value. Remember that people can instantly recognize the difference between cookie-cutter handouts and custom content.
Today’s consumers are incredibly fickle and savvy when it comes to marketing messages. Let’s face it: that’s what we’re really talking about when it comes to corporate communications — we’re trying to elicit emotions, interest, and action.
Making employee communication population-specific is the best way to reach your workforce — this helps avoid the old “that doesn’t apply to me” adage. They’re already eating their vegetables (or they just refuse to and your flier won’t change their minds), so they dismiss the fact-sheet entirely. But when they can see that it does apply to them, they’re more likely to pay attention and take action.
Poor Communications Drives Up Cost
The bottom line is that generic fact-sheets don’t drive employees to make changes in their health habits — and those health habits are (at least in part) what is driving up the cost of most employer’s healthcare. While convincing employees to eat their veggies alone might not decrease overall premiums, encouraging healthy habits just might.
Generally speaking, the healthier your workforce is, the lower your premiums will be. This is one area where your employee benefits broker can be invaluable to you. They can help you identify key factors that are driving up costs and then find solutions that might work for your employees.
What we’ve found is that employees are more likely to take charge of their health when they feel they have an actionable solution. Everyone knows they should get 3-5 servings of veggies per day. All smokers know they should quit. The barriers here are that people don’t feel like they can easily get those veggies into their diets — or that quitting smoking is just an insurmountable task they’ve already tried (and failed) to do. However, fliers like “10 Ways to Sneak Veggies into Your Diet” and “5 Proven Tactics to Cut Back on Smoking” are full of action-items, rather than statements shaming employees for their unhealthy habits.
How Customized (and Localized) Content Is Far More Effective
Example 1: ER vs. Urgent Care
Recently, after one of our clients expressed concern over the increased cost of their health insurance premiums, we conducted a detailed claims analysis to look for possible reasons behind the price hikes. After evaluating the data and benchmarking it against other employers in the competitive set, we determined that the increased costs were due in part to a high volume of ER visits.
To get to the bottom of this unusually high volume of ER visits, we polled the employees through small focus groups and online surveys containing both multiple choice and open-ended questions. We found out that there were five primary reasons this client’s workforce went to the ER, as opposed to urgent care facilities:
- They didn’t know where their urgent care centers were located.
- They didn’t know when it was more appropriate to go to an urgent care versus an emergency room.
- They didn’t realize how much cheaper urgent care centers were than emergency rooms.
- They didn’t realize how much faster urgent care facilities were.
- They didn’t realize that there were urgent care facilities closer to them than emergency rooms.
We then asked the workforce to weigh these five reasons in order from most to least important. Knowing this information, we were able to create a customized information sheet showing the benefits of using urgent care over the ER, as well as a map showing the closest urgent care facilities in their area.
This type of fact-sheet from an employee benefits broker is far more helpful than a generic printout saying why urgent care facilities are a better alternative to an emergency room. Our client found it extraordinarily helpful and their workforce has seen a decrease in unnecessary ER visits since then.
Example 2: Fighting Obesity
Through a biometrics screening program, one of our clients identified an abnormally high number of people in their workforce struggling with obesity, which of course leads to all sorts of chronic (and costly) conditions. Through our experience with other clients facing the same issue, we designed a multi-pronged communications program to combat obesity.
One element of the program focused on a “get walking” campaign. Rather than simply educate the workforce on the benefits of walking, which are fairly well known, we set out to design a highly localized marketing piece which mapped-out lunchtime talking loops of 1, 2 and 3 miles around this company’s campus and surrounding neighborhood. The posters included information on calories one would burn, as well as estimated times to complete each loop.
Another element of the program focused on “healthier eating.” Rather than trying to radically disrupt current dining behaviors, we set out to simply steer employees to healthier choices when dining off campus. We did this through a marketing piece which illustrated the healthiest menu items to choose at each of the top ten most frequented lunch spots near their office. The rationale? Since it’s unlikely that we’ll convince someone to stop eating at Chipotle, let’s at least educate them on how to order in a healthier manner.
These are just a few examples of how customized and highly localized content, driven off true population health analytics, can make all the difference when it comes to ratcheting up the effectiveness of your corporate communications campaigns — and more importantly, how your employee benefits broker can alleviate some of that burden for you.
Identifying the Main Issues with Your Employee Benefits Broker
It goes somewhat with saying that all of this customized and localized content won’t amount to a hill of beans if you aren’t allowing population analytics to drive your communications strategy. Promoting healthy eating is fine, so long as it isn’t coming at the expense of a more significant workforce issue that is putting people’s health at risk (not be mention driving up premiums).
The most effective employee communication campaigns always begin with data driven decisions which guide which audiences to target with which messages. You and your broker should review your claims history on a regular basis. This will guide you to your largest opportunities for behavioral change, and ultimately plan savings. If you are a smaller company and can’t get access to your claims history, there is still quite a bit you and your broker can do to better understand your population workforce issues.
Whether your workforce is falling down on the preventative care front, or suffering from a lack of adherence to medications, or simply battling unhealthy lifestyles, your employee benefits broker can help you figure out a solution.
If you'd like to learn more about how to improve your employee benefit communications we encourage you to download our ebook. We also encourage you to download our free ebook on branding your employee benefits program.
What custom content would you like to see from your employee benefits broker? Leave us a comment below or contact us. We’re happy to provide answers!
The JP Griffin Group consults for discerning companies coast-to-coast, ranging in size from 10 to more than 30,000 employees. In addition to our Scottsdale, Arizona headquarters, we have bi coastal offices in Seattle, WA and Washington, DC.