Employers Using Multichannel Benefits Communication

August 13, 2014 (PLANSPONSOR.com) – Employers are embracing a multichannel approach to convey benefits information to their employees, according to a research brief from The Prudential Insurance Company of America.

The brief, “Delivering the Benefits Message,” says employers are doing so to meet the needs and preferences of their employees. Group meetings and seminars are still considered the most successful communication methods, with 74% of employers using them with great to moderate success.

Individual meetings, email, toll-free numbers and mail at home rounded out the top five most successful communication methods, according to the brief. Targeted marketing mailings and mail received at home both drastically climbed year over year, with employers reporting high importance for each increasing by 13% and 14%, respectively. Many employers also report that newer methods of communication are being used with great success, including external social media networking and video, CD-ROM or DVD presentations.

“Digital communication vehicles continue to develop and progress around us, but they are not completely eclipsing traditional avenues of communication,” says Jean Wiskowski, vice president of sales strategies for Prudential Group Insurance, based in Newark, New Jersey. “Rather, employers are finding themselves relying on a full suite of tools to reach a dynamic and evolving work force.”

Employees did exhibit some preference for communication vehicles in the digital realm, with work email (47%), personal email (28%) as the top two digital pathways for information. Online avatars/profiles (19%), group meetings (19%) and individual meetings (18%) rounded out the top five.

For employees, the trajectory of benefits communications is clearly moving towards digital. Over the last year, more employees have enrolled, obtained plan information and used financial planning tools on computers and mobile devices. Employees also feel that a majority of benefits-related activities will be available via smartphones or tablets in the next five years.

“As individuals increasingly choose digital tools to take in information, benefits communications will be no different. Employers and carriers will need to look at successful aspects of non-digital communications and incorporate them into the digital realm,” says Wiskowski.

As the trend towards year-round benefits education and enrollment strategies gathers steam, employers are examining additional methods of communicating with employees outside of their annual enrollment period. To support this strategy, employers report that email would be the optimal vehicle, with 84% stating it would be the best method for receiving year-round information. This finding also echoes employee sentiment. Home mailing (77%) and signing up on a benefits website (76%) rounded out the top three best communications methods outside of enrollment for employers. Notably, 46% of employers said that text messages to mobile phones were a good way to reach employees.

“The current environment for benefits communication vehicles is an expanding and changing one. As employers, brokers and employees begin to examine emerging communication vehicles, it is important to recognize the value traditional ones still hold,” Wiskowski says.

The current brief is the fifth in a series of five research briefs based on Prudential’s “Eighth Annual Study of Employee Benefits: Today & Beyond.” A copy of the research brief can be found here.