Employee Benefits: Communication is Key

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Research shows that even though employees routinely underestimate how much their benefits cost their employers, they do value their benefits - when they know and understand them. Which means plan administrators, human resources professionals and managers need to work together to educate employees on the benefits available to them through their employer. After all, a benefit that is unused or unappreciated has little retention value, and does nothing for the employer but use up premium dollars. It does not help employees feel valued or wanted. In fact, research from the Voluntary Benefits Association indicates that even an above-average benefits package loses more than half of its effectiveness in retaining workers and maintaining morale if plan communications are substandard.

Spread the Word

Provide materials and educational information on the benefits your companies provide for their employees. Most materials educate employees on the benefits available to them, and explain how these benefits improve their lives. These materials are generally available to plan sponsors for free, or at a very minimal cost. Employers should work with their agent or representative to keep educational materials up to date.

Use your bulletin board. Your board can hold more than just the mandatory Department of Labor posters. Have your HR staff keep the board updated with the latest materials from the vendor life insurance, disability insurance, health& wellness, and other employee benefits partners.

Have a section reserved for new announcements to make extra sure your employees see them.

Insert key plan changes and new benefits announcements in employee paycheck envelopes, if you pay with paper checks. This is one envelope you know your employees will open.

Hold regular meetings with staff in which your HR experts and company agents are available to explain and answer questions about your employee benefits package.

Make sure senior management is present at benefits meetings. The questions and comments your employees have can be valuable indicators of how your employees perceive their benefits and the company.

Company Selection

Matt Stein, a 12-year veteran of the voluntary employee benefit industry, suggests selecting benefit providers not just on the terms of the benefit package itself, but on the robustness of the provider's administrative support system as well. For example, best results are achieved when a company has an easily accessible 1-800 number and intuitive website for post-enrollment support.

If you use an enrollment company, they should have a staff of licensed and knowledgeable non-commissioned advisors able to answer specific questions for your employees and HR staff alike.