Photo Harry Gotlieb, The JellyVision Benefits

Harry, Gottlieb, Editorial Advisory Board Contributor

Direct mail, benefits fairs, websites—when it comes to benefits communication techniques, employers have no shortage of options. But which are the ones employees find most useful? And are these methods giving employees everything they need to know?

If you’re curious about what employees really think about how their companies talk to them about their benefits, and want some insight into what they think they know about their packages, I invite you to take a look at the results of a benefits communication survey my company just published.

If you’re in a hurry, or the thought of looking at charts and graphs doesn’t exactly float your boat, that’s OK too. I’ll give you the topline on some of the more interesting findings.

Let’s start with something timely like open enrollment. Most companies do a really good job of getting the word out about open enrollment. 79% of employees correctly identified open/annual enrollment as a time when they’re allowed to make changes. For a good communication strategy that you can use for your employees you can visit communication strategy example.

Of course, qualifying events are another time when changes can be made. Unfortunately, less than half (42.5% of those surveyed) of the employees knew that. Worse, a little less than a third (29.5%) identified open enrollment AND qualifying events as valid times to make changes.

Is that a big deal? Sure is. Imagine: If your spouse loses his job, you may not realize that that you can add him to your plan before the end of the benefit year.  Think about the stress that would alleviate to have that information. Now let’s say that you don’t have coverage with your employer yourself.  If you’ve been covered under your husband’s former plan, it’d be key to know your options.

Or how about this—one of the interesting things we discovered is how some dual-income couples choose one employer’s plan over another’s. While cost and selection are the biggest factors behind family health plan choices, some folks simply default to whatever their partner gets without considering other factors. As a matter of fact, 14.5% of surveyed employees say their families just sign up for the health care benefits of the person who always get them, regardless of the relative quality of the plans.

Speaking of good decisions, none could be more important than those that could positively affect an employee’s health and wellness. Although most employees (77.6 percent) think it’s at least “somewhat important” for their employers to provide a wellness program, nearly one in five workers can’t say for sure if their company even has one.

Now it’s one thing if an employee doesn’t know if a wellness program is available—his or her company might not offer one—but quite another when wellness a program is available and the employee just doesn’t know how it works.

Or how it’s paid for.

One of the most surprising things we learned from our study is how employees understand the concept of wellness benefits. Nearly half (45.3 percent) think they have to pay something in order to take advantage of their companies wellness programs. And with a number like that, you can’t help but wonder how many people opt out the wellness programming that could help them manage their weight, stay on top of their prescribed medications, or cease smoking simply because they mistake it as pay-for-play.

And that’s just for wellness. Although awareness of core benefits is generally high, most employees don’t have a full understanding of or appreciation for the full range of their employer’s benefits options.

That’s really unfortunate. Whether it’s getting critical help from an EAP, taking advantage of discounts, or understanding long term incentive plans – every benefit your company provides is there to improve and protect the financial, physical and mental well-being of your employees and their families. These other benefits should not be an asterisk on the total compensation sheet. They should and can be promoted properly, utilized extensively and deeply appreciated by the people who are building your business.

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