Effective communications can have as much impact on employees’ satisfaction with their benefits as the actual benefits offered or the amount of money a company puts into a benefits plan. This finding, from a study by the Prudential Insurance Company, illustrates one way for companies to contribute toward positive employee morale, even when economic factors necessitate benefits cutbacks or restructuring.
The study looked at a number of variables that affected employees’ perceived value of their benefits. The effectiveness of communications topped the list, followed by a company paying all or most of the cost of benefits and then by a company offering a range of benefits. According to the study,
how employees perceive the value of their benefits directly influences how important benefits are to employees when selecting a job or when deciding whether to stay with a current employer.
This is because effective communications help employees to not only understand, but also appreciate, the benefits they have or those that are available to them. Thus, the study validates the positive connection between employee benefits and an employer’s recruitment and retention efforts.
A separate survey from Watson Wyatt Worldwide dramatically shows the impact of benefits communications: Companies with above average benefits but ineffective communications had a 25% employee satisfaction level, while those with below average benefits but effective communications had a 76% employee satisfaction level. Stated another way, it can be better for a company to provide fewer benefits but explain them well, than to provide an expansive-and costly-package of benefits that employees don’t really understand.
Keep the following considerations in mind when assessing your benefits communications-
- Written communications should be in simple and understandable, yet engaging, language. Employees will respond best to communications that they can directly relate to, so use specific examples or modeling tools to help employees select benefits and understand how the benefits can work for them.
- Recognizing that different individuals learn in different ways, use various media at your disposal for your communications. Go beyond written communications to also include emails, meetings/seminars, announcements, posters that highlight images and graphics, interactive web tools, and video conferencing.
- Communicate throughout the year, not only during open enrollment. Use non-enrollment periods to highlight particular features of your benefit plans, perhaps focusing on one each month. This enables you to hone in on benefits or plan features that are particularly useful or unique, and that perhaps get overlooked during the frantic activity of annual enrollment. Such features might include wellness features in the company health plan, modeling tools available through the 401(k) plan, the advantages of pre-tax employee contributions, changing benefits during the year in response to a family status change, etc.
- Help employees understand how the company’s benefits offerings are particularly relevant to them. For example, if your company offers voluntary benefits, employees are likely to have broad choices that go well beyond the one-size-fits-all approach to employee benefits. Highlighting the convenience, access and cost-savings features of workplace voluntary benefits can help employees see how advantageous such offerings can be to them.
- Communicate the full value of your benefit’s program by providing regular benefit statements. Reminding employees of their total compensation is a great way improve your employees’ perception of existing benefit programs.
If the prospect of embarking on a benefits communications campaign seems daunting, give us a call. We can help you provide ideas and strategies along with actual communications materials to enrich your employees’ understanding of their benefits.
Don’t underestimate the value of communications and education as a way to strengthen your company’s benefits package. As the research above indicates, dollars spent on communication and education can be as valuable an investment as dollars spent on the benefits themselves.
Be sure to take a look at a few of our sample benefit communications pieces online or give us a call today.