June 22, 2017

These days, workers are drowning in information.

A generation ago, workers had a narrower range of benefits, but also had to wade through much less information to make decisions. Perhaps they had a retirement plan, a health plan, and a dental and vision plan – and not much else as part of an employment package.

Recent innovations in employee benefits, though, have resulted in a large increase in the number of options. Benefits have expanded to include scores of potential voluntary benefits, both employer-subsidized and worker-paid plans. The options range from long-term care and disability insurance to pet insurance and prepaid legal services to employee theft insurance.

All this is happening even as employees take on a greater share of the burden and risk associated with their own retirement planning. Most traditional pension plans, for example, have long since been replaced with defined contribution plans such as 401(k) and SIMPLE IRAs. Workers must, therefore, attain a much higher degree of investment knowledge, education and sophistication than was required of previous generations.

Take Time to Educate Employees

It turns out the more workers know about your benefits plans, the more they’ll want to stay. That helps reduce turnover, education and training costs, and enhances the likelihood of retaining good employees.

According to a recent survey commissioned by Unum — a major disability insurance carrier — employers who make an effort to provide thorough and frequent education on their benefits package were significantly more likely to be highly rated by their workforce. In turn, employees at these same organizations were also more likely to report that they felt valued by their employer.

For best results, the study’s authors suggest embracing these best practices from around a variety of industries, nationwide.

Emphasize Communications

Use multiple forms of media. Individual employees learn and process information in different ways. Some do well in classroom settings. Some need to take the information home and examine it in private. The more ways you reach out to employees with your benefits information and education effort, the more success you’re likely to have.

According to another survey by research firm, Harris Interactive — one of the longest-running public opinion polls around the world — the best results were obtained by companies that used at least three forms of media to reach out to their workforces about their employee benefits packages.

Provide Study Time

Don’t wait until the last minute, such as the very end of the open enrollment period, to push detailed plan information out to your workforce. Strive to get your printed or downloadable information into employee hands at least three weeks prior to any applicable deadlines.

Workers who had at least three weeks in which to study their plans, according to researchers, were much more likely to report that they had been given sufficient time to review their benefits information, compared to workers who had less than three weeks.

Provide Management Emphasis

It’s not enough to delegate your communications effort to a junior staffer. The effort is important enough to warrant direct participation and emphasis from senior management, leading the effort from the top. Part of that is making sure the benefit providers you deal with supply you with plenty of literature and are available to answer any questions you or your employees have.

© 2017