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The Benefits Chef: What's on the Menu? Benefits Soup for the Soul with Seasoned Writing Tips

Hello! I’m Alana – the Benefits Chef! In my life I have two great passions: working in benefits and loving people with food. Somehow, CPBI Saskatchewan has found a way to bring my passions together. I hope the information I share will be soul food for all of you who love working in benefits as much as I do.

One of the great responsibilities for any benefits plan sponsor is to communicate with our plan members. Preparing clear and concise plan member communications is especially challenging as our work places become more diverse.

Recently, my cousin asked me to read a letter she received about her group life insurance. She wanted me to help her understand the letter and advise her on the right choice for her life insurance. Now, I like to think that I am a seasoned benefits professional, but I could not make sense of the messages that the letter was attempting to convey. The experience made me think about the communications we prepare for our own plan members.

With just a few simple ingredients, you can prepare communications your plan members will read and understand. Follow my simple soup recipe:

1. The first ingredient is plain language (or local produce). Avoid using industry jargon or acronyms. Remember you work in benefits every day but your plan members do not. Write communications like you would if you were explaining it to your Grandma. (We love you, Grandma!)

2. The second ingredient is concise sentences (or ground spices). We tend to use long sentences to explain complex plan provisions. Short sentences that explain a single thought are more effective. (See what I did there?)

3. Third, eliminate unnecessary “fillers” in your sentences (or your soup). However, therefore, in regards to, and other “filler” words are just not necessary. Often they are used to try and make communications sound more professional but the truth is, it does the opposite. Filler words distract from the point you are trying to make.

4. Fourth, don’t try to explain everything the plan member will need to know for the rest of their life all at one time. Explain what is important right now, and the next step. Anything you write beyond that is too much.

5. The fifth ingredient is layout (or plating). Use a pleasing font such as Calibri or Arial. Keep your communications to a single page whenever possible. Don’t overcrowd the page. When the type is too small, the page is too crowded, or the letter is just too long, plan members will feel overwhelmed and they won’t read it.

6. The final ingredient is a good proof reader (or taste-tester). Proof reading is a super power! Nothing detracts more from a plan member communication piece than a mistake. In my office, all communications go through a 3 stage review process before they are released. Even better, have someone who is not a benefits expert read it. If a lay-person can understand what you are trying to say, then your soup is ready to be served!

Speaking of life insurance….did you hear about the Italian chef who died? He pasta way.

Wishing you delicious days ahead filled with plan members reading (and understanding) your letters, Alana


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