Quick Summary: To help each employee choose the benefits package that best meets his or her needs, most organizations hand out packets and brochures that explain options. That material often lands with a thud—it can be bulky and confusing. Some savvy companies are complementing that material with ultra-quick Twitter messages throughout the year.
A few years ago, many workplace communicators didn’t know what a text message was. Today, some organizations are using quick-message methods to help employees maximize use of their benefit plans.
The messages, sent and read online through social networking sites such as Twitter, can help benefits managers share concise plan updates, post open enrollment reminders, increase participation in 401(k) plans, and solicit employee feedback about new or changing options. More firms seem to be getting over their aversion to talking publicly about health benefit plans, using Twitter to cut through the communication clutter and connect with employees.
|What Is Twitter?
Twitter is a micro-blogging service that allows users to send quick (140 characters maximum) updates into cyberspace. Message receivers can “follow” individuals, news groups, companies, and other entities and get connected to happenings. In the workplace, Twitter can be used by coworkers to “follow” company news and communicate with HR staff and each other.
Seem silly or self-indulgent? Millions of people communicate this way, using 140 characters or fewer (like this sentence does).
Beth Gleba, corporate information manager for IKEA North America, recently decided that to help employees make better health care decisions, it couldn’t expect them to read mailed information packets. The company tweeted, “If I don’t enroll in benefits now, can I do it later? Go here b4 it’s too late,” pointing workers to IKEA’s employee Website.
“We wanted to talk to our coworkers in a way they are talking,” Gleba says. “We wanted to use our resources in the smartest way possible.”
IKEA mapped out how it wanted to use Twitter, creating categories the company wanted to write about, such as open enrollment and wellness. Then the firm wrote 50 “tweets” in advance and used a Twitter “feed” to program the days and times when it wanted to send them out. Gleba says tweeting helps to simplify the arcane world of health care into terms her employees understand. Comments to tweets tend to represent various viewpoints, not just the company line, she says.
While IKEA hasn’t measured whether Twitter and other social media strategies succeed in making employees better health care consumers, companies can collect and organize comments people leave to get a better sense not only of how employees can find what they need, but how firms can improve their health benefits communication.
• Open a Twitter account at Twitter.com. Ask employees to do the same and “follow” your HR/wellness tweets.
• Map out a messaging strategy. Ask yourself, “What can we tell employees to help them make better benefits decisions, and when should we tell them?”
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