19 November 2013

How can you help your employees to better understand their benefits? Ask them!

I saw an article the other day that quoted a study by Colonial Life. The study asked employees of various companies for suggestions on how their companies could help them to better understand their workplace benefits. Below are some of the suggestions, along with my two cents:

  • Provide benefits information that can be accessed at home or work. Benefits decisions are made with family members, so don’t just deliver information at onsite meetings or through the company intranet. Make information accessible through Internet websites, webinars and printed materials that can be shared.  
  • Make the information easy to understand. Our mantra at Write On Target is to simplify, simplify, simplify. It’s not always easy to do in the world of benefits, but boy, is it necessary! Shoot for a grade school reading level. Even if your audience is highly educated, they are pressed for time. Make your messages clear and concise.
  • Provide an opportunity for one-on-one assistance on company time. Post-enrollment surveys by Colonial Life showed 97% of employees say personal counseling sessions “improved” or “significantly improved” their understanding of their benefits. You may not be able to provide personalized assistance onsite, but you should have a benefits service center or number that employees can access for assistance when they need it.
  • Communicate more frequently. Benefits communications should be a year-long process, not a once-a-year dump. Keep employees interested by serving up small portions of information on a regular basis…it’s easier to digest.
  • Provide information more personalized to employees’ needs. Today’s workforce includes a lot of different age ranges with varying needs. An older worker nearing retirement has different needs from a younger worker with a new family. You probably offer a variety of benefits and services to meet a variety of circumstances, but are you segmenting your communications to increase awareness among specific groups? (I’ll have more to say about this in the future.)

These points are pretty universal, but I’d encourage you to ask your employees how you can help them to better understand their benefits.  Whether you use an online poll or a multiple-choice voting ballot at your location, it’s really helpful to get suggestions directly from your target audience. After the survey is completed, apply their suggestions to your 2014 communications plan for a successful plan year.