More Employers Talking Up Benefits

February 13, 2008 ( - More U.S. employers are talking about their benefits programs - but not as many as you might think, according to a new study.

Watson Wyatt’s 2007/2008 Communication ROI study found that the number of employers who used communication vehicles such as printed materials, special mailings and employee meetings to increase enrollment in benefits programs in 2007 had nearly doubled since 2003. Still, only about half (53%) said they had done so, compared with 25% four years earlier.

In looking back at the communication trends since its initial study in 2003, Watson Wyatt found that employers are increasing their communication efforts in some areas, but lessening their focus in others. For example, the number of employers offering personalized total reward statements has increased by 13 percentage points, but the share of companies offering educational material to ease the financial transition of workers nearing retirement has decreased by 11 percentage points – from 58% to 47%.

More employers (50%) are collecting information to address the perceived value of employee benefit programs, and 57% said that employees are using Web technology to gain access to training/development tools. Nearly two-thirds of employer respondents claim to involve internal communication organizational change.

Additionally, the number of employers that regularly measure employee behavior change to verify that communication initiatives are working has increased by 24 percentage points to 57% of the 264 employers surveyed. However, the portion that allows employee input on decisions that affect the company has decreased by 5 percentage points.

The survey noted slight decreases in certain behaviors that could portend negative communication trends; the implementation of new communications initiatives to support change, giving employees the chance to provide input on how work gets done, a systematic orientation for new hires, and explaining the reason behind major changes.

On the other hand, the number of companies that communicate the connection between pay and business strategy has risen from 70% in 2003 to 80% last year.

"Good communication connects employee performance to the bottom line," said Kathryn Yates, global director of communication consulting for Watson Wyatt. "Companies that expect workers to perform at peak levels are explaining why they make certain management decisions. They gather employee input and feedback to build workers' understanding - an exercise that has been shown to increase their productivity and improve financial results."

The 2007/2008 Communication ROI study™ includes the responses of 264 companies representing more than 6.2 million employees around the world.

Top Five Positive Trends in Communication


align="center"> Percentage point increase

align="center"> Organizations Implementing (2003)

align="center"> Organizations Implementing (2007)

Takes action to increase employee enrollment in benefits programs

align="center"> 27%

align="center"> 25%

align="center"> 53%

Regularly measures employee behavioral change

align="center"> 24%

align="center"> 29%

align="center"> 53%

Employees use Web technology to gain access to training/development tools

align="center"> 20%

align="center"> 37%

align="center"> 57%

Collects information to assess perceived value of employee benefit programs

align="center"> 17%

align="center"> 34%

align="center"> 50%

Involves internal communication in organizational change

align="center"> 16%

align="center"> 47%

align="center"> 63%

Top Five Negative Trends in Communication


Percentage point decrease

Organizations Implementing (2003)

Organizations Implementing (2007)

Offers personalized education materials on income needs in retirement

align="center"> 11%

align="center"> 58%

align="center"> 47%

Implements a new communication initiative to support change

align="center"> 7%

align="center"> 38%

align="center"> 32%

Gives employees the chance to provide input on how work gets done

align="center"> 5%

align="center"> 33%

align="center"> 28%

Provides a systematic orientation for new hires

align="center"> 5%

align="center"> 51%

align="center"> 46%

Explains the reason behind major decisions

align="center"> 4%

align="center"> 66%

align="center"> 62%