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Employee Benefits Communication: A Key to Positive Business Outcomes

There is significant value and investment in the benefits we provide employees. Americans are mobile in their employment and will likely be exposed to different plans. The right plan, well executed and presented, will have an impact on employee satisfaction. That satisfaction can contribute to a host of positive outcomes for employer and employee. However, benefits are complex and require a high level of communication support for employees to properly understand and meaningfully engage with them.

So, it’s useful for us to think about how employers can communicate the features, benefits, utility and other components of our total compensation/benefits packages to a large and diverse employee population. That sounds like a tall order, right? It is. As such, more and more organizations are investing in employee benefits communications in different ways, including adding a dedicated benefits communications position to their team. Before we dive into what the organizational aspect of a benefits communications plan looks like, let’s talk in more detail about why benefits communication is so important.

Why is this idea of “benefits communication” so important?

Correcting the Faults

Much of the employee/employer population does not understand the language of benefits. PolicyGenius found that 42% of adults are unable to identify the terms “deductible”, “co-insurance”, “copay”, and “out-of-pocket maximum”. On the one hand, that might be understandable, but is it acceptable for employers? If we look at a couple more stats…

  1. 4 in 10 employees strongly believe their employer’s benefits communication is simple to understand
  2. Half of all employees are very confident they made the right decisions during their last enrollment, we can see where some dissatisfaction might arise and how confusion on terminology is so prevalent.

A gap in understanding exists. This confusion can lead to inaction or wrong action. It can have negative effects for the individual employee and for the employer. It’s clear there’s an opportunity for the employer who can buck this trend.

Building the Culture

Benefits that are understood and leveraged effectively play an important role in building and sustaining workplace culture. Health and well-being, and overall satisfaction with a benefits package are more than just a headache avoided – a plan that works effectively can provide a tangible sense of contentment for an employee. The culture enhanced by good plans are critical in driving employee engagement, creating a sense of purpose, productivity, and attracting and retaining talent.

Communication must be visible and understood to be part of the culture. When communication is effective, 76% of employees report being satisfied with benefits and 74% say they are loyal to their employer. In contrast, when communication is ineffective (e.g., too infrequent or action steps are buried in confusing jargon), only 6% are satisfied with their benefits and 34% feel loyal to their employer. How is that for gap?

How successfully you communicate benefits and market them will determine how well your employees use those benefits and your return on investment from them.

So let’s talk about how to add focus and strategy around your benefits communications

Building the Plan

A benefits communication strategy should take a marketing perspective, with the goal of communicating the value to employees as part of the total rewards package. Dedicated strategy and resources put toward benefits communication will allow you to establish consistent connections throughout the year through a variety of mediums—a common best practice.

To get the full value as an employer from your benefits:

  • Schedule communications to be consistent, persistent and expected. It’s a rolling campaign.
  • Use different media and communication channels to capture employees’ attention and reinforce the message that their benefits are valuable and the information they receive is worthwhile. Adapt your channels to match employee preferences.
  • Partner directly with benefits leadership and your content creators to tailor the right messages at the right time for current participants and new hires.
  • Use real-life examples drawn from different employees’ experiences is a highly effective means of influencing behavior. This brings a personal, relevant component to your messaging that’s impactful.

Building the Team, Acquiring the Tools

Whether you are a larger employer who can have a dedicated, internal employee benefits communications resource, or a mid-sized/smaller employer with questions about the viability of taking that step, there are many options for enhanced and robust communications support.

  1. In-house resources: Twenty-nine percent of corporations have in-house staff specifically dedicated to benefit communications. That’s in addition to support from outsourced consultants and vendors, and general benefits and/or HR staff. Companies with highly effective communication practices had 47% higher total returns to shareholders over five years compared to companies described as the least effective communicators.
  2. Technology: The tools many of us see used in our daily lives (SMS, Text, Voice Messaging) are in use in this industry and can be tremendous in supporting your HR staff. Employee Communications Apps (ECAs) have exploded in use since the onset of the pandemic.
  3. Consulting/Broker partnerships: Having the right partner at your side is paramount to achieving positive results and outcomes. At First Person, we have a dedicated team of communications experts who help our clients with customized materials and innovative strategies to meet their goals.

Measuring Business Outcomes and Results

Where will you look to measure success? You can look at expenses and time associated with managing your program communications. You can also look at awareness and adoption/engagement with the program pre- and post-communications plan execution. And finally, you can look at key performance factors you already keep close tabs on: revenues, recruitment success, turnover and other stats that influence or indicate levels of loyalty and satisfaction in the workplace.

One of the biggest benefits challenges is consistent, year-round benefits engagement. In the quest to continually attract and retain top talent, employers must speak to the value of benefits for each individual employee on a consistent basis, versus an outmoded once-a-year event about plan changes. Clearly illustrating how these benefits work together in the context of employees’ lives and needs will increase understanding and engage employees in a more meaningful and personal way. As a result, engagement, productivity, retention and positive business outcomes will increase.

Have we made you a believer in the value of benefits communication? Did you answer, “Yes, but I could use some help.”? We have experience in setting clients on the right path to better benefits communications. Every business is different, but there are features and tools we can apply to your plan right now leading to positive business outcomes.

Send me an email if you like. Or drop us a line on LinkedIn or via tweet. We heart this stuff and are glad to help!

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