Companies Lacking in Benefits Communications

December 13, 2011 ( – Employers could do more to communicate benefit offerings to employees.

Eighty percent of HR decision makers surveyed by ADP say it’s important for employees to fully understand their benefit options, yet they estimate only about 60% of their own employees do.  

The majority of HR respondents surveyed believe decision support tools increase employee understanding of benefits and their overall engagement, yet 72% of mid-sized employers and 51% of large employers don’t provide them.  

Decision support tools, typically software applications accessed through a company portal, give employees the ability to compare healthcare plans to determine which plans best meet their needs.  Approximately half of large (53%) and mid-sized companies (50%) offer these tools the entire year and about one-quarter of large companies (23%) and one-third (33%) of mid-sized companies only provide them during open enrollment and qualified events.  

Among the companies that provide decision support tools, the most common tools reported are a flexible spending account (FSA) calculator, a plan comparison chart, a medical cost calculator and wellness incentive modeling.   

One out of five large companies that do not provide decision support tools plan to in the next couple of years, but almost half (49%) will not and about a third (31%) are unsure. Very few (13%) mid-sized companies that do not currently provide decision support tools plan to do so in the next year or two, 38% will not and almost half (49%) are unsure of what they will do.  

Web Portals  

Nearly nine out of 10 large companies (86%) and seven of 10 mid-sized companies (71%) have a web-based portal which hosts employee benefits information. The vast majority (86%) of both large and mid-sized employers with a web-based portal think it is important for employees to have 24/7 access to benefits information, yet only 72% of large employers and 66% of mid-sized employers provide this access.    

Four out of 10 large companies and 38% of mid-sized businesses that offer web-based portal access to employees have a single web-based portal that provides access to multiple types of information versus multiple portals for each primary task (HR, PR, and benefits). Employees of companies that offer a single portal have access to a wide variety of information – including benefits, pay stubs, time and attendance, tax withholding and more.  

Approximately two-thirds of large and mid-sized companies with a single web-based portal (66% and 60%, respectively) allow employees to modify personal information, most commonly annual benefits enrollment and address and tax withholding information.   

By allowing employees to modify their own data, the majority of HR decision-makers see three benefits: they are able to maintain more accurate information, fewer calls to the HR/Benefits department are reported and most think their portal has reduced administrative burden. Among companies that provide web-based portal access to benefits information, approximately half (57% of large employers and 44% of mid-sized employers) use a third- party hosting vendor.

The Mobile Access Trend  

Mobile access to benefits information is deemed important by approximately six out of 10 HR decision-makers, regardless of company size, yet fewer than half of companies provide mobile access now (46% of large companies and 39% of mid-sized companies).    

Among the mobile application features HR/benefits decision-makers are most interested in are healthcare provider information, benefits alerts and single sign-on.  

HR/benefits decision-makers estimate that, on average, about two out of five employees (38% in large companies and 42% in mid-sized companies) use mobile technology in their regular workday activities and half of respondents (52% of large employers and 47% of mid-sized employers) believe that this will increase over the next two years.  

Benefits Communication Budgeting  

Two-thirds (66%) of mid-sized employers and 36% of large employers report they have no employee communications budget for their benefits plans. It is unlikely this will change in the near future as HR decision-makers at about half of companies say their budget has remained the same in the past year and only a minority expect it to increase in the next one or two years.  

Of companies with a budget, 53% of mid-sized employers and 47% of large employers indicated their budgets remained the same. Looking ahead, more than half of HR decision-makers in both large (57%) and mid-sized companies (63%) say they are likely to maintain their employee communications budget in the next one or two years and only one in five (21%) of both groups plan to increase their budget.  

Conducted from July 6 through 18, the Employee Benefits Tool survey asked 501 HR decision-makers to respond to a 10-minute online questionnaire.  More information about the survey is available at