3 Tips for Better Employee Benefits Communication

publishedover 1 year ago
5 min read

As employers struggle to attract and retain talent amidst the great resignation, many have turned their attention to their employee benefits. From family-friendly perks to mental health support, we’ve seen a whole new suite of benefits come into the spotlight over the past year and half. And 2022 looks to be no different. In fact, all signs point to people placing even greater importance on working for an employer that supports their holistic needs.

Many companies have made significant additions and improvements to their benefits package. However, they may be failing to realize the full potential of their investment, for one key reason — poor communication practices. And as a result, employees and job-seekers may be unaware of all of the offerings that are available to them. This also means they’re probably not utilizing their benefits as much as they should, and they’re not getting a complete picture of their company’s employee value proposition.

It’s tempting to over-communicate with workers about their benefits and assume that more is always better. But businesses have to recognize that most employees are overwhelmed right now with all of the information they’re expected to take in, between ongoing COVID-19 updates and an ever-shifting landscape of workplace requirements. This is especially true for remote workers, for whom endless messages, emails, and video calls are the new normal.

Whether you’re looking to retain your current workforce or attract new talent, it’s important that the information you share about your benefits delivers real value and doesn’t get lost in the shuffle. Here are 3 tips to stand out with your communications in an increasingly talent-driven job market:

1. Be clear about the value of your benefits

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, benefit costs typically account for around 31% of total compensation, with retirement savings, insurance, and paid leave making up the bulk of these costs. This equates to an extra $12.20 per hour for the average employee, in addition to their wage or salary.

But these “on average” statistics may not mean much to your employees. In fact, many people aren’t even aware of their total compensation, and they believe that their benefits are worth much less than what employers are actually investing. For example, one study found that 31% of employees don’t perceive the value in their benefits.

To bring the true value of your benefits to life, consider personalizing these numbers by using people’s individual salaries and your company’s actual benefits costs. For example, let’s say that benefit costs account for 35% of your company’s total compensation. For someone making a $50,000 salary, that means that $17,500 is spent for their benefits, which equals a total compensation of $67,500. An online calculator can provide an even more accurate picture of total compensation.

But there’s more than just the direct costs of employee benefits. Consider remote work arrangements, which are one of the mostly highly sought-after benefits among today’s workers. FlexJobs estimates that people who work from home save $4,000 a year on average, but some employees are saving much more than that — 38% estimate they’re saving at least $5,000 a year, while one out of five workers estimate that they save more $10,000 a year.

And that’s just one example. I’d suggest you do this exercise for all of your benefits; then, be sure to share this information, whether it’s in a job description or on your employees’ paycheck statements. Remember, being transparent about your total compensation package could help position you as an employer of choice, both for your current workforce as well as the top talent you’re looking to attract.

2. Simplify your benefits information, and use the right channels at the right times

Only half of employees understand their benefits, and one in five say they want more benefits education. Not surprisingly, workers report that their healthcare benefits are particularly complex. Nearly two-thirds (63%) of employees don't know how to leverage their health benefits, and 58% don’t know what health benefits they’re entitled to.

While you might not have control over the complexity of your benefits, you do have the ability to simplify information for your workforce. Rather than passing along complex documents or pointing people to multiple websites, it’s critical that you create your own easy-to-understand materials or guide. Focus on helping employees decipher their benefits, learn how to make the best decisions for themselves and their families, and determine what costs they’ll incur.

You should also think about how to expand your educational efforts outside of the open enrollment period. For example, consider promoting mental health benefits during the holiday season, since people tend to be more stressed during this time of the year. Or you could align your communication with “moments that matter” — for example, by sharing additional information about your family-friendly benefits when someone files a claim for one of their children.

But no matter what time of year you communicate with your employees, it’s important to use the right channels to reach them. Most employees prefer to receive communications via apps and email, and their top preference for benefits education would be an interactive tool that explains their benefits and offers personalized recommendations. And it’s a good idea to have a website or portal to point people to, so they can access the information and tools they need anytime.

However, even if you simplify your materials and communication for your workforce, some people may still feel overwhelmed. With that in mind, consider offering navigation or advocacy services (e.g., a benefits concierge or advisor) to help workers better understand their benefits. Research find that a one-on-one consultation with a benefits advisor is another top preference among employees, when it comes to how they’d like to learn about their benefits.

3. Customize your communications

One great way to cut through the noise is to create customized communications for different employees based on their unique needs, demographics, or life stage. Here’s an obvious example: many employers now provide lactation rooms or lactation consulting services, which is a fantastic way to support new moms. Clearly, it makes sense to emphasize these benefits primarily among your female employees, and perhaps only those who fall within a certain age range.

Another example is the complex area of retirement benefits. Younger team members could benefit from a long-term guide to maximizing their retirement benefits, whereas older employees might seek out information about how to actually prepare for their retirement. And the same goes for healthcare. People experience vastly different care needs during their lives, and you could make a real difference in their health by pointing people to the right services at the right time.

It’s a good idea to examine all of your benefits through this lens and think about: (1) how much to share about each benefit, (2) whether different aspects of each benefit should be emphasized, and (3) what communication methods make the most sense for different employee groups (remember, some employees may not be as keen on digital communication). At a minimum, I’d suggest looking at factors like age and gender.

However, you may also want to tailor your benefits information and communication methods for different roles (e.g., knowledge workers versus on-site staff). For example, while it’s great to offer remote work arrangements, over-communicating about this benefit with employees who can’t work remotely won’t be helpful or good for their morale. And you may want to rely more heavily on in-person communication or handouts for workers who don’t use technology as much in their day-to-day lives.

You have the ability to create a better benefits experience

The world of employee benefits is complex, but that doesn’t mean your workers need to have a stressful benefits experience. You have the ability to clearly communicate the value of your benefits and customize the information your employees receive. It won’t be easy, but the outcomes of these efforts — greater benefits awareness and utilization, not to mention happier, healthier employees — can go a long way toward positioning your company as an employer of choice. And especially right now, that should be an outcome that every organization wants to achieve.

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