Employee morale continues a slow but steady decline from 2008 levels, but the benefits enrollment season, vastly approaching, offers employers the chance to positively engage their employees, according to recent research from Unum.

The fourth annual survey of American workers, completed following the 2011 benefits enrollment period, finds that 28% say morale has declined since last year.

The survey, conducted online by Harris Interactive among more than 1,100 employed adults, also found that just 55% of workers would choose to stay with their employer if they were offered the same pay and benefits elsewhere – a 7-point drop since 2008.

More than 8 in 10 (82%) employees who rated their benefits education highly also rated the employer an excellent or very good place to work. Conversely, only 27% of employees who rated their benefits education as fair or poor also said their employer was an excellent or very good place to work.

“At the heart of the survey’s findings is a clear connection between effective benefits education and engaged employees,” says Nash. “When employers show their concern for their employees’ financial well-being, everyone benefits.”

And some 79% of those who rated their benefits education highly said they would choose to stay with their current employer even if they were offered the same pay and benefits elsewhere.

“In this climate, the need for effective benefits education is greater than ever,” says Barbara Nash, vice president of corporate research at Unum. “Our research shows that a good benefits education experience is a highly effective, low-cost way for employers to demonstrate their concern for employees and their well-being.”

The link between a positive benefit education experience and overall workplace satisfaction isn’t new, yet the research finds that employers continue to spend too little time and fewer resources on helping employees understand their benefits:

• 28% of employees who were asked to review their benefits in the past year said the benefits education provided by their employers is fair or poor.

• Half of those employees said they received printed information or brochures, down from 70% in 2008.

• More than a third of those employees were offered a chance to attend an information and question-and-answer session about benefits, down from 52% in 2008.

• The percentage of respondents who had access to a toll-free number to speak with a benefits adviser dropped sharply from 47% in 2008 to 29% in 2011.

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