Considering age and gender when strategizing how to communicate benefits is an important way to increase employee engagement, as well as enhance workers’ overall understanding of total rewards.

There is a strong relationship between employees’ perceptions of their total rewards package and their overall engagement levels, according to new research from Aon Hewitt – something employers may be keep to keep in mind as they plan their benefits communication.

In fact, the survey found 60% of engaged employees say their overall total rewards – including everything an employer offers from salary to work environments – are above or well above what other employers offer, while only one-quarter of those who are disengaged say the same. Similarly, half (51%) of engaged employees view career development/training programs as better than what other employers offer, while only 19% of disengaged employees would rate these programs as better competitively.

Also see: Publix attributes proactive communication to engagement, retention success

Still, the study reveals employees aren’t taking a holistic view of their benefits and the competitive perks their companies offer. While paid time-off and base pay were some of the better understood benefits, others such as career development/training and work-life balance perks were among the least understood.

“Employees are telling us that nothing about their total rewards package stands out,” says Ray Baumruk, partner and employee research leader at Aon Hewitt. “This lack of differentiation could be damaging to attraction, and many of the least understood programs are also the ones viewed by employees as less competitive.”

“Companies could see improvements in employee engagement by increasing awareness and understanding of these programs," adds Pam Hein, partner, communication consulting at Aon Hewitt. "Often, providing total rewards statements and related Web tools can help foster greater understanding.”

The study also shows some major differences among generational and gender groups in their perceived understanding of benefit rewards. For example, men allocated more value to salary, while women have more a preference to paid time-off.

Also see: 401(k) redesign requires clarity, focus on financial literacy

The study noted the perceived competitiveness of total rewards is higher among millennials than other generations, particularly on career development/training programs.

Added value in communication

There was also a noted increase in engagement from employees who perceived an increase in communication from senior management.

Although most employees feel they receive the right amount of communication on benefits and job-related topics, many aren’t as positive about communication related to career development or stress management.

“The most engaged employees are the ones who are encouraged to share ideas and who witness open, honest communication from senior leadership,” says Hein. “Offering communication training for managers and leaders, regularly sharing key messages, and instituting performance- and reward-related metrics, related to communication from managers and leaders, will be essential to achieve improvement in this area.”

Also see: 8 signs your workplace culture needs a reboot

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