Heeding Benefits Education Preferences Pays Off

March 17, 2014 (PLANSPONSOR.com) – Only about one-third of employees in a study from Unum rate their benefits education as excellent or very good.

Eighty-two percent of employees who rated their benefits education as excellent or very good said they feel their employer values their work, compared to only 41% of employees who rate their benefits education as fair or poor. In addition, employees who rate their benefits education highly are twice as likely as those who do not to say they are motivated to “go the extra mile” at work and to recommend their employer as a good employer.

Results show providing employees with a minimum of three formats for benefits communications and at least three weeks to review them before enrollment is key to a successful benefits education. However, the five-year study indicates the amount of time employees are given to review benefits education material before enrollment is trending downward. In 2009, 55% of employees received three or more weeks to review education, while in 2012, 47% received this much time.

Employees indicated they prefer printed and personalized benefits education materials, but only 18% receive printed materials, and only 25% report receiving personalized material.

Of the methods of education offered, 71% used printed materials, 68% used a personalized statement, 66% used the employer Intranet, 58% used emails from the employer and 56% used interactive decision support tools to make their enrollment decisions. Fifty-four percent used group meetings and half used one-on-one meetings. Insurance provider materials and conference call meetings with benefits staff factored into enrollment decisions for less than half of employees.

Younger employees (ages 18-34) are more likely than older workers to prefer using technology. They were two to three times more likely to prefer online chats or message boards involving a benefits adviser, and were five times more likely to prefer a mobile app.

The most frequently used methods of enrolling in benefits is online with no assistance (48%) and paper form (33%). Generally, study participants prefer these methods, but they did say they would like some additional help. Forty-five percent indicated they would like assistance from benefits staff or another benefits expert, but only 20% reported help is available to them.

A report about the study, “Beyond the Usual Benefits,” can serve as a tactical guide to help employers and brokers plan their approach to benefits communications.