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Anyone who’s studied psychology in school is familiar with the nature versus nurture debate.

nature-vs-nurtureThe essence of the question is whether people are more a product of their innate strengths and weaknesses (nature) or their environment (nurture). Scientists still fall on both sides of this argument, but from a benefits perspective, I confess to being squarely in the nurture camp.

Here’s why.

There are certain skills and talents that most of us can only aspire to. For example, I’m not and never was going to be a world-champion sprinter. Can I run? Yes. Could I run faster if I trained? Probably. Will all the effort and training in the world get me onto a starting block next to Florence Griffith-Joyner? Absolutely not.

Luckily, when it comes to benefits knowledge, I could probably give Flo-Jo a run for her money. Why? Because for the last 20 plus years, I’ve been working in this industry and have been exposed to it every day. I started off with zero knowledge, and over time have filled my brain with lots of useful information. I’ve learned that when it comes to benefits, we all have what it takes to be, if not champions, at least contenders.

And, that includes our employees. It doesn’t matter if someone has a Ph.D. from Harvard or a high school degree, everyone has the same capacity to understand benefits because it’s a function of nurture, not nature. No one is born with innate benefits knowledge, that’s why we have to create an environment employees can learn (nurture) their benefits knowledge.

Here are three ways to better nurture employees so they can achieve the level of comprehension and awareness required to use their benefits more thoughtfully.

  1. Provide better tools. Benefits aren’t easy, but they’re also not rocket science. They key is to offer employees the information and resources they need to understand and act on their benefits. Here’s an analogy. If you’re ordering out for lunch and your colleague asks for the number of that pizzeria down the block, do you suggest they dig out a phone book, or do you have them Google it?

    People manage their lives online and through apps, so why are we still creating and distributing 30-page benefits guides (the benefits equivalent of a phone book)? We need to provide information when and where people need it, in small, digestible chunks. 
  1. Widen the focus beyond Annual Enrollment. If you still want to create that benefits guide, I feel you. But, instead of releasing it for new hires and before AE, use it as the basis of messaging you share throughout the year.

    Think of AE as the time you offer information only on how to choose benefits and how to understand the differences between options. Then, take the rest of the benefit-specific information in that mythical guide and organize it into newsletters or emails or posters for break rooms. In other words, spread it out and provide it to employees in a more nurturing fashion.
  2. Personalize the messages. Employees are all individuals with unique situations. Add to that the specific set of benefits options they chose and you have a recipe for being able to really personalize messaging and education. In fact, you should. Just like it doesn’t generally make sense to provide content to a 50-year-old employee about how to manage their first home, sending a single employee content about spouse life will likely fall flat. By differentiating the messaging based on who an employee is, where they are in their lifecycle, the options they’ve chosen and how they are using their benefits, you can offer truly relevant support instead of noise.

All employees have the same potential to be great benefits consumers, but they need a nurturing environment that supports the journey.

Want to learn more about how to turn your employees from benefits users into smart consumers? Register for our upcoming webinar for more insider tips to start nurturing your employees’ benefits knowledge.

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View all Posts by Beth Begany