The Employee Benefits Blog

Jon Hazel, on Top Benefits Communications Trends

Posted by Michael Motyka on Tue, Nov, 27, 2012 @ 11:11 AM

employee benefitsJon Hazel is president of Behavioral Communications in San Antonio, Texas. He has worked in HR communications for 26 years. His firm helps leading organizations communicate HR initiatives effectively, equip employees to navigate change and engage the workforce to drive business results. In Part 1 of our interview with Jon, he discussed the biggest communication trends we can expect in 2013. In Part 2, we asked Jon about the waning popularity of intranets.

It’s much easier for HR and health plan administrators to communicate with people who have desk jobs and access to their computers and email during the day. But the reality is that many in retail, manufacturing, and other industries don’t have this kind of access to information. What's the best way to communicate with these workers?

Obviously online is not always the best delivery method, especially in manufacturing and other environments where people are working away from a desk and computer. The good news is that I see a number of rising opportunities to reach people. One way is opt-in messaging, which allows workers to have messages delivered to their mobile devices, home computers or to a spouse’s computer. The means of engaging the employee and the family can move to the platform of the employee’s choice and not just their employer’s choice.

The use of intranets may have peaked with many companies now shifting to extranets. What are some of the advantages to using an extranet as it relates to benefits communication?

Delivery of content that’s traditionally been on an Intranet and behind the firewalls of a company isn’t serving employers and employees as effectively as it had been. For people who don’t use a computer at work, accessibility at home is important. Many organizations are turning to extranets, which are proprietary sites on the web. The site may be password protected, but it’s accessible on the web instead of having to log into a company’s intranet. Intranets are almost always for the employee and don’t allow spouse access. An extranet may be the only way spouses can get good information without violating corporate IT policies against non-employees accessing internal systems.

How do extranets affect voluntary benefits and the level of involvement on the part of consumers?

Access to proprietary websites provides the opportunity for families to be more involved than we have seen in the past. This is especially true of wellness programs. Here’s a common scenario: Your employee is a man who doesn’t have access to a computer during his time on the job. There may be a female spouse who is also employed outside of the home, but typically this person does the meal planning and makes benefit and health care decisions for the family. If the male employee can only access information through an intranet, employers want to make sure the information gets to the person making decisions that affect wellness and employee benefits. Often, for male employees’ that person is the spouse.

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Winston Benefits is a HR solutions company that helps businesses automate and streamline their employee benefit programs. Custom designed and developed client-specific solutions help enrich their total compensation and rewards programs while optimizing processes such as benefit communications, enrollment and administration.

Topics: Jon Hazel, benefits communication, voluntary benefits, employee benefits strategy