Do your employees know what their full benefits package includes? Do they understand the value and purpose behind the benefits? Do you communicate your benefit offerings to current employees or is it something they only learn about during recruitment and on-boarding? Do you have a benefits communication plan to keep employees updated? If you answered “no” to most of these questions, this blog is for you because what you say, how you say it, who you say it to, and when or how often you say it can impact your workforce.
Communication is key to any successful program. Companies are spending a lot of money to offer enhanced benefits beyond health, dental and vision insurance to their employees as a way to attract and retain talent. However, according to a Randstad USA Survey, less than half (48%) of employees reported knowing all the benefits and perks their employers offer, and even less (40%) reported that their employers help(ed) them understand the benefits that are available to them. While it’s important in a competitive marketplace for an employer to offer enhanced benefits, it’s just as important to keep employees informed and updated about benefit offerings early and often. Employee benefits have a large impact on retention and recruitment, making benefits communication a very important responsibility.
Developing a Benefits Communication Plan
Developing a strategic benefits communication plan can drive employee education, build trust, increase engagement, foster loyalty, and reduce chances of misunderstandings. Companies who offer benefits and perks really should want their employees to utilize them. They were implemented for a purpose; whether to decrease healthcare costs or to improve employee productivity, engagement and retention. High engagement provides numerical data that supports and justifies any costs related to implementing benefits and perks to employees. Sometimes low engagement is a matter of poor communication.
Some things to keep in mind when developing a benefits communications strategy are:
- Evaluate how employees prefer to be informed. Do they want to read print materials and emails, have the information in a central location on a company website, be updated via social media or videos, or be told in-person at staff meetings? Every employee receives information differently which is why it’s important to hit all touch points indicated by employees, so long as budgets allow for it. The more places and ways employees see messages, the more likely it it is for information to stick.
- Ensure consistent branding across all communications.
- Be clear in messaging. Do not leave too much room for interpretation. Being direct is always best. Provide timely updates or changes to benefits, be upfront about deadlines, be transparent about how changes may impact employees and educate them on the purpose behinds additions or changes to benefits/perks. Additionally, keep message free of words that may not be universally understood such as “deductible or co-insurance”, or at least provide short definitions to concepts that may be confusing to the general public.
- Tailor Communications to appropriate audiences: Be aware of your audience and tailor communications to the different populations you are trying to reach. For example, full and part time employees may have access to different benefits. If that is the case, be sure that each segment is receiving the information that impacts them so as to reduce chances of confusion and miscommunication.
- Determine Messaging Frequency: It’s important to remind employees about benefits and perks early (at on-boarding) and often (throughout the year). What may not have been a priority or even on an employees radar 3 months ago, may be now.
- Evaluate Efforts and Request Feedback: Test your messaging and evaluate the impact that communications have on employee knowledge, attitudes, engagement, utilization, etc.
Don’t Just Communicate Options – Communicate Value
In addition to informing employees about their options, it’s also helpful to communicate the value of the benefits being offered. Why would an employee want to participate in a wellness program, what do the different types of insurance plans means for them and their families, why are these benefits important to the company and why should they be important to the employee? Understanding the value behind a benefit can encourage employees to utilize it as well.