You understand the importance of effective benefit communication, but getting it right can be a challenge. The complexity grows when communicating internationally. As the program director for the International Foundation’s Certificate in Global Benefits Management, I hear all the time how increased globalization has required benefits professionals to obtain expertise in employment practices in other countries. While the tales of global communication mishaps can be humorous from an outside perspective, the slip-ups can be seriously detrimental to your communication efforts.


thumbsHere’s an example of communication gone wrong. Would you consider using this image to depict the ease of your open enrollment process to your members?

Regardless of whether you like the actual image or not, you probably wouldn’t look twice if you saw it on a benefits communication piece.

However, if you are doing business in Latin America, the “thumbs-up” is actually an offensive hand gesture. (I’ll trust that Google can provide you the meaning, if you are curious.)

[Related: Certificate in Global Benefits Management]

A frequent “lesson learned” is that the simplest of things can be the easiest to overlook—such as asking someone locally to do a review of communication pieces to make sure they not only make sense—but also that they don’t imply the reader go jump off a bridge.

Do you have an example of a time when, despite your best intentions, your communications didn’t work for an international audience? I invite you to share your experiences below!

PS: Did you know that those same readers in Latin America likely don’t know the term “open enrollment”? Be careful with your image and word choices!

Tiffany Ulbing, CEBS
Director, Educational Programs at the International Foundation


Director, Educational Programs at the International Foundation

Favorite Foundation service/product: Face-to-face educational programs. (You’ll see her face at many of them!)

Benefits topics of top interest: Self-proclaimed “Benefits Geek”, so the list is long! Communications that cut to the chase, strategies for employee wellbeing and productivity. Plan sponsor case studies.

Favorite Foundation conference/event moment: Attending the Employee Benefits Symposium as a new CEBS designee.

Personal Insight: Tiffany brings critical thought to every project she works on, balanced with a dash of devious fun. She’s not afraid of the karaoke microphone, and will walk in perfect cadence with whomever is by her side, thanks to years of clog dancing.

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