Dara M Wilson is the Senior Director of Product and Member Marketing at Even. Prior to joining Even in 2018, Dara has been a customer-centric marketing leader who’s worked across a number of industries, including natural disaster response, internet services, mobile devices and others.
At Even, our customers are some of the country’s most forward-thinking companies. They understand that offering high-value voluntary benefits like Even is great for business, and that it helps their workers build stronger lives, too. Our customers aren’t the only ones who “get it,” though. Research shows that organizations are adding more voluntary benefits each year to attract better talent, and keep current employees. But benefits only have impact if people use them.
Together with Walmart, the country’s largest employer, we have a success story when it comes to voluntary benefit adoption: Our responsible on-demand pay platform is Walmart’s third-most popular employee benefit, voluntary or otherwise, right behind health insurance and its 401(k) program. This didn’t happen by accident, though. Driving this level of adoption takes consistent and sophisticated strategies to build trust and generate demand. And it all starts with choosing a vendor that’s going to provide strong outcomes for your workers, as well as demonstrable ROI for your key business needs.
If you’re offering a benefit, you’re doing it for a reason — either to help employees, help the business, or both. For any benefit to have its desired impact though, employees need to use it. And for a worker to try something out, they need to trust it, especially when the benefit will require access to personal information. You can establish trust between the vendor and your employees by partnering closely with the vendor to help them succeed, and leaning heavily on your own brand.
Although the vendor is providing the benefit to your workforce, they can’t drive adoption on their own. To reach your workforce effectively your vendor needs strong buy-in from your teams — all the way from executive leadership through to comms, marketing, and HR. The most powerful channels you have to reach your employee base are the ones you own.
To make this truly successful, fill in small gaps for your vendor. The people behind your new benefit should know the product inside and out, as well as which messages work best for employees in different stages of awareness, consideration, and adoption. They should also come to the table with a strong point of view on channels — but this is where you can help take things from good to great.
The vendor is the product expert, but as the employer, you’re the employee expert. Share nuances about connecting with your workforce that the vendor just doesn’t have. For example, if you have break rooms but they’re rarely used, maybe advertising there should be skipped. In the past, have posters or tent cards resonated better with your people? Insights like these can mean the difference between missing or exceeding adoption goals.
You want employees to feel like, “This benefit is coming from us, we’ve vetted it, and we endorse it. You’re safe.”
It’s also important to use knowledge about your employees to help the vendor establish trust. With any service that has friction upon signup — such as multiple steps, or the sharing of personal information — workers need to know that their employer has thoroughly vetted, and is supportive of what’s being offered.
For example, since Even is a financial services product, employees are asked for personal banking information upon signup. Our customers have taken the time to vet us as a vendor that provides best-in-class data security, but passing this confidence on to employees is a little trickier. One way is to tailor the look and feel of the benefit communications in a way that assures employees that sharing sensitive data with Even is safe. The goal is to position Even as an extension of the employer — an entity that’s imbued with the trust employees have already placed in their employer.
This can be accomplished in a number of ways, such as communications about the benefit coming directly from executive, to crisp, clean, co-branded marketing materials that send a clear message to employees: “This benefit is coming from us, we’ve vetted it, and we endorse it. You’re safe.”
The good news is that one of the best ways to build trust between your employees and a new vendor is by enlisting work that’s already been done: your brand. Share as much information and resources on your brand as you can with the vendor. Give them access to your brand book, templated assets, and anything else that will help them create launch materials that look bespoke and on-brand.
Beyond visuals, give your vendor guidance on your internal brand’s voice and tone, so when employees encounter communications about the vendor’s product, what they’re seeing feels familiar. You don’t want vendor communications to deviate sharply from what employees have come to expect from you — this can put trust at risk, which in turn puts adoption at risk.
So you’ve been working with your vendor to build beautiful, trust-instilling communications and assets about this new benefit. The big day is coming, and you’re almost ready to roll everything out to employees. Here’s how to launch successfully, and keep adoption steady over time.
New benefits are exciting! They’re great for employees, and because of that, benefits teams tend to get excited about rolling them out. Consider treating the launch like a product launch: Create demand ahead of time by sending out “coming soon” messages in key channels. With our customers, we’ve found that consolidating the launch timeline so a critical mass of messages goes out within a two to four week period creates a very exciting and impactful launch moment.
Be cautious about relying too much on word-of-mouth marketing in the beginning. With benefits that require the sharing of personal information, this usually comes much later in the process. Even if the benefit is a great product that has a positive impact on peoples’ lives, employees need to be made aware of what it is, how it works, and what’s required of them — and that all needs to come from an official source: you. Then once you have a critical mass of onboarded workers, they’ll begin to persuade late adopters by asking, “Hey, have you tried this great new benefit?”
A well-planned and executed rollout will get a good amount of your workforce to adopt the new benefit; but there are always going to be people who need more time, plus new workers coming onboard. To capture these folks and continue to growing the program, be sure information about the new benefit is embedded in channels employees encounter on a regular basis.
For example, if there are evergreen channels where benefits and employee services are surfaced — such as an intranet, open enrollment communications, or bulletin boards — be sure to continue promoting the new benefit there. Also consider the adoption technique of matching up timing and intent; put information about the benefit in front of employees when they’re already thinking about a relevant subject. For instance, you could get workers interested in a new health savings account with flyers placed in the employee clinic waiting room.
Finally, consider borrowing yet another effective strategy from the marketing world: referral programs. These are successful for direct-to-consumer services all the time, and you can see the same success within your workforce when it comes to voluntary benefits. Ask your vendor how they can partner with you to design, implement, and track this type of employer-funded campaign to drive additional adoption.
The launch and adoption of a new benefit can’t be successful by word of mouth alone. In order to achieve results for your employees and your business, it’s important to select the right vendor, help your employees trust the new service, and place communications in the right places while matching up timing with intent. Most importantly, the benefit needs to provide value to employees by producing good outcomes — that’s when you’ll start to see steady ongoing adoption and usage, helped along by strong word of mouth marketing.
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