Common sense tells us that understanding a situation can enable us to take charge and make informed decisions, which in turn increases the likelihood that we will be satisfied with the results. This wisdom applies to employees and their benefits: Employees who are well-informed about the details of their benefits offerings are more apt to choose the benefits appropriate for them—those they most need and actually use—and thus be happier and more satisfied with their benefits packages. Survey results verify this, providing added motivation to employers to beef up their employee benefit plan communications.

A survey from Harris Interactive and Charlton Consulting Group indicates that most employees do not understand the full value of their salary and benefits, which can lead to dissatisfaction with their compensation package, and with their employer and working situation overall. According to this survey, 51% of workers believe that their employer pays 30% or less for employee benefits, such as health care, life, disability and retirement. However, the Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics puts employers’ contributions at 43%, over and above wages, for employee benefits.

That survey also found a correlation between employees’ understanding of and their satisfaction with their total compensation, with 75% of the employees who said they are very satisfied with their benefits also saying they have at least quite a bit of understanding about their benefits package. Such a correlation also was found in a survey from Univers Workplace Benefits and Employee Benefit News. According to that survey, employees who are knowledgeable about their benefits are almost 30% more likely to be satisfied with the benefit plans offered.

How do these indicators play out in the day-to-day workings of companies? According to the Univers survey, companies that have high employee satisfaction with benefits are 86% more likely to say that benefits positively affect their recruitment and retention efforts. Further, firms with employees who are knowledgeable about their benefits are two-thirds more likely than other firms to report turnover rates of under 20%.

Clearly, effective communications yield positive results, not only for employees, who are empowered to choose and use benefits wisely, but also for employers, who are likely to see a more stable and motivated workforce as a result of satisfied employees. Key elements of effective employee benefits communications include:

  • Establishing a specific budget item for benefits communications and funding it adequately.
  • Enabling those employees responsible for benefits communications to stay abreast of the latest trends and technologies by investing in their training.
  • Creating a benefits communications strategy, a plan for implementation, and benchmarks against which to measure success.
  • Using multiple types of media to recognize that everyone learns in different ways, and that some employees will respond to printed materials, others to visual displays, and still others to oral communications such as meetings.
  • To the extent possible, targeting communications to individual employees and employee demographic groups.
  • Recognizing the difference that one-on-one communications can make to some employees and trying to build time into the communications plan to allow for this.

Remember that effective communications are not a one-shot deal; messages sometimes must be repeated often, albeit in different ways and through different media, to truly take hold with the listener. The result can be employees who are more satisfied, not only with their benefits but with their employer overall, which can lead to a more stable, more productive workplace.

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