Employers Fail to Communicate Benefits

April 26, 2013 (PLANSPONSOR.com) - Employers that don’t effectively communicate the value of their benefits offering may not get the credit they deserve.

The majority of employers think they do an effective job communicating benefits, but research paints a different picture.  According to a white paper by Colonial Life, “Employee Benefits: Are You Getting Your Money’s Worth?” only 23% of employees think their employers communicate their benefits very effectively. Even more troubling is the finding that 9% of workers say the benefits communication they receive is not at all effective. 

“Benefits today account for more than 30% of employee compensation,” said Steve Bygott, assistant vice president of marketing analysis and programs at Colonial Life. “But if employers are not effectively communicating their benefits, they’re not getting the full value of their investment. That kind of oversight can be very costly.”

Many employees, for example, do not understand how much their employers pay for health insurance coverage, Bygott told PLANSPONSOR. Employees without information about their current benefits are unable to appreciate their value, the white paper says, which can undermine the employer investment in providing them.

Employees Want to Understand Their Benefits  

Workers say benefits have taken on more importance since the recession, and 82% say they are more interested in knowing what their insurance benefits cover and how they work. Seventy-four percent said they are more aware of the workplace benefits they have—or do not have.

Although employees want to better understand their benefits, they may not have access to basic communication tools and best practices, Colonial Life found. According to the research, the majority (73%) of American workers with employer-provided benefits say understanding their benefits is very important. 

Survey respondents reported employers could make several changes to improve benefits communication, including the following: 

  • Provide benefits information they can access at home or at work (38%);  
  • Provide benefits information that’s easier to understand (37%);
  • Provide an opportunity to talk with a benefits expert on company time (34%);
  • Provide benefits information more frequently (31%); and,
  • Provide benefits information more personalized to their needs (30%).

Effective benefits communication strategies don’t have to add expenses or administrative burdens for employers, according to the white paper. Employers can take easy, practical steps to add value to their benefits plan, including partnering with a benefits provider that can offer benefits communication and education services.

When it comes to communicating, in-person meetings are most effective, Bygott stressed. “From our experience, that is absolutely the best way,” he said.

Personalization is also crucial to helping them understand their experience and what benefits work best, based on their age and lifestyle, he said.

Employers who fail to effectively communicate their benefits may lose employees to other companies, the white paper cautioned, especially now that the economy is rebounding.

The white paper is available here