Your clients are spending lots of money for something they think is really valuable: workplace benefits for their employees. Are they getting their money's worth? Unless employees understand and appreciate the benefits your clients are providing, the answer is probably not. But never fear. A solid communications strategy can help employers maximize the value of their benefits investment.
Comprehension is key
Employees can't appreciate the value of their benefits if they don't understand them. The vast majority of workers don't understand the value of the benefits they now have. Benefits today account for more than 30% of employee compensation, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, yet few employees know what it actually costs employers to provide benefits - health insurance in particular. A 2011 LIMRA study showed that even though 60% of employees thought they knew the cost of their medical insurance, only 15% could actually provide a reasonable estimate.
Yet, employees who understand their employer's benefits investment are more likely to be satisfied with their workplace. A 2011 Unum survey found that more than four out of five workers who rated their employee benefits education highly also rated their benefits packages positively and said their workplace was an "excellent" or "very good" place to work. And employees who value their benefits packages are three times more likely to believe their employer cares about their wellbeing, according to the survey.
Not knowing the true value of an employer's benefits package carries serious consequences for your clients. First, with an improving economy and expanding opportunities, workers are more likely to look for new jobs when they don't fully appreciate their existing benefits. Second, employers shell out more money in training and recruiting to replace dissatisfied workers who leave their jobs. And companies that don't effectively communicate the value of their benefits packages aren't getting the credit they deserve.
Improve communication without breaking the bank. In a Colonial Life study of employees whose employers offer benefits, workers revealed several suggestions that would help them better understand their workplace benefits. Share these suggestions and practical tips with your clients to help them improve benefits communication:
* Provide benefits information employees can access at home or work. Employees rarely make benefits decisions alone. They need the ability to discuss and make benefits choices with their families. Relying solely on workplace communication tools such as group meetings and the company intranet is not enough. Complement electronic communication at work with printed brochures or Web-based resources that outline the company's benefit offerings, their purpose and their cost.
* Provide benefits information that is easier to understand. Try to simplify the use of insurance and benefits jargon in employee communications so the message is better understood. Use concrete, real-life examples to illustrate your points.
* Provide an opportunity to talk with a benefits expert on company time. Only one in four employers offers this option, according to a 2012 SHRM survey, yet employees who participate in one-on-one counseling sessions overwhelmingly report being satisfied with the process. Post-enrollment surveys by Colonial Life show 97% of employees say personal counseling sessions "improved" or "significantly improved" their understanding of their benefits.
* Provide benefits information more frequently. Communicating employee benefit choices once a year at annual enrollment simply isn't enough. Encourage your clients to look for opportunities to communicate their benefits packages throughout the year as part of an overall communication strategy.
* Provide benefits information more personalized to employees' needs. Older employees nearing retirement have different benefits than younger, unmarried workers. And employees with dependent children living at home need different benefits than workers without children. A one-size-fits-all approach to communication won't work with a diverse workforce. Many companies offer employee-paid voluntary benefits to give employees greater choice and the opportunity to customize their benefits packages to better meet their individual needs.
Even without a hefty benefits education budget, you can help your clients greatly expand their benefits communication efforts by tapping into resources available from many benefits providers. Some carriers even offer communication services at no cost in exchange for meeting individually with employees during enrollment. They can communicate an employer's core benefits package, along with any voluntary products offered to employees.
Don't let your clients waste precious benefits dollars. Offering an attractive menu of benefits without a solid communications strategy is a recipe for disaster. Help your clients maximize their investment by improving the way they deliver benefits communication to their employees.
Matarrese is the vice president of sales for the Southeast region of Colonial Life & Accident Insurance Company. Reach him at (803) 678-6163 or MMatarrese@ColonialLife.com.
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