The New World of Employee Benefits
The needs and expectations of employees have changed over the past few years, and benefits engagement and utilization has become increasingly important for employees and employers alike. From the pandemic bringing healthcare to the top of employees’ minds, a tight labor market, and financial market uncertainty, employees are more invested in their physical, economic, and emotional well-being. These changes have altered the benefits packages offered by employers, and rightfully so- with high competition in the workforce, it’s more important than ever to provide desirable benefits to attract and retain top talent. However, for employees to perceive the value of and engage in their benefits, they must first understand them.
In this blog post, we’ll explore strategies HR professionals can use to increase engagement with company benefits. From providing clear communication about benefit options to utilizing innovative digital tools, developing ideas for engaging with employee benefits is key when creating an effective workforce strategy. With thoughtful consideration, HR managers can increase employee awareness and improve utilization of the available resources while strengthening overall engagement between employer and employees.
Do employee benefits matter if they aren't being used?
Providing employee benefits is a significant investment in both time and money for employers, and if employees aren’t using them, that investment is going to waste. A Harvard Business Review Analytic Services survey sponsored by League Inc. showed that 58% of respondents were unaware of the company-provided health benefits to which they were entitled, and 63% didn’t know enough about how to leverage the available benefits. The survey also discovered that employers in North America are spending around $15,000 per employee to provide health benefits. Employers need a strategy that allows them to educate and communicate their benefit programs more streamlined and efficiently while simultaneously increasing awareness and utilization, but how do they do this? This blog post examines why employees are not engaging with their benefits and ways to solve these problems to increase ROI and decrease costs.
Knowledge is Power.
Employees can only utilize their benefits if they are aware of and understand the benefits they are entitled to. Many employees don’t understand their benefits; if they do, a small portion claims to have a good understanding of them. Long-winded meetings and PDF benefit guides can make open enrollment stressful and overwhelming for employees, and many leave more confused and unsure than before. In addition, employees are often required to locate and visit multiple locations for resources explaining their benefits or need access to additional information. Providing employees with digital employee benefits education resources that are easy to understand, easily accessible, and housed in one location can make the process less complicated and stressful for employees. When employees have access to information about their benefits, they are more likely to understand them and, therefore, are more likely to utilize them.
Communication is key.
Poor benefits communication is another reason for poor employee benefits engagement. A study conducted by the International Foundation of Employee Benefits Plans surveyed companies’ top benefits communication challenges and found that 80% of participants said that employees don’t open or read the materials sent to them. In addition, 49% of survey participants said that employees don’t understand the materials provided, and 31% said that employees don’t perceive the value of the benefits available. As benefits become increasingly important to employees, bridging the gap between providing benefits and utilizing what is available is essential. Lengthy materials or a general lack of resources prevents employees from realizing the value of the benefits provided to them. Moreover, as open enrollment closes and employees move on, benefits don’t stay top of mind. Sending year-round, ongoing communications keeps employees thinking about their benefits and, subsequently, keeps employees using them.
The Power of Brite for Benefits Engagement
Utilizing a platform like Brite gives employers the tools to drive employee benefits engagement with sharable, digital benefit guides packed with powerful decision support tools. The dynamic platform allows employers to create, communicate, and distribute all education around benefits programs year-round, not just during open enrollment. In addition, Brite’s decision support tools aid employees in selecting the benefits that best fit their individual needs and circumstances, thus increasing employee confidence and satisfaction in the benefits education process. Employees can refer to the information at any time and on any device- no matter where they are.
Case Study: A New Approach to Benefits Education
When Campbell Companies encountered the issue of ineffective communication, they decided it was time to change how they communicated benefits to their employees. Their traditional benefits education methods, such as broker meetings, printed guides, and lengthy emails, brought hundreds of questions from employees, and employees were getting recommendations from co-workers instead of the materials provided, leaving them unprepared to cover the healthcare costs in the case of a medical event. In addition, many employees weren’t engaging with the communications at all, leaving more work for the team. Michael Smith, benefits manager at Campbell Company, said, “Less than 30% of employees updated their benefits options annually, which turned into months of clean up after open enrollment closed.” To provide employees with the information needed to prepare for the future and make more informed, strategic financial decisions, Campbell Companies decided to take a more innovative approach- Brite.
Smith and his team could use Brite to create engaging custom benefits education materials, a massive upgrade from traditional, jargon-laden manuals. Because Brite uses a questionnaire-style format to help employees identify their unique healthcare needs and then gives personalized recommendations based on their responses, this allowed Campbell Company employees to dig deeper into policy elements that matter to them individually rather than sifting through information in a manual or broker meeting.
Increased Benefits Engagement from Better Benefits Education
Employee response to Brite was unprecedented. When Campbell Companies partnered with a new insurance company, 35% of employees enrolled in the new plan, a delightful surprise for Smith. Employees made better, more informed decisions because Brite delivered benefits education materials in a more accessible, interactive format than traditional methods. Before Brite, Smith found that most emails went unread, and broker meetings were met with blank stares. Now, employees have a source of information they refer back to if they have questions or for details.
For the first time in company history, Campbell Companies had 100% enrollment completion before open enrollment ended. Smith states, “Brite brings simplicity to health insurance benefits. With Brite, we have the freedom to be more innovative without benefits packages and spend far less time personally educating confused employees.”
The Importance of Benefits Engagement
The cost of poor benefits education goes beyond the monetary value of poor utilization. Lack of knowledge, awareness, and engagement leads can lead to lower employee productivity, poorer health, and more employees taking time off. The high cost of providing healthcare benefits to employees demonstrates the importance of employee benefits education and the value of investing in programs that provide employees with tools to learn about and select their benefits, as well as resources that encourage employees to utilize and engage with their benefits. As previously stated, Brite allows employers to create and distribute educational materials on all things surrounding employee benefits- before, during, and after open enrollment, giving employees the resources they need to make educated and informed decisions regarding their benefits, ultimately leading to greater utilization and engagement.