BY PAULA AVEN GLADYCH
Employers who want to boost employee satisfaction with their benefits need to evaluate their employees’ current benefits experience and identify ways to improve the process through more effective communications and education.
A new study by The Guardian Life Insurance Company of America shows a strong relationship still exists between an employee’s benefits enrollment experience and their perceived value of the benefits that their employer offers.
According to the study, 70 percent of employees who were able to receive benefits communications in their preferred channels said they were very confident in their benefits selections versus just 57 percent of those who did not. Workers who were able to enroll in their preferred channel were significantly more satisfied with their overall benefits package (70 percent).
Thirty-seven percent of employers say their benefits communications are very effective in helping employees make the right benefits decisions, and only 34 percent of employees say that the benefits communications they receive are very effective.
“Employee benefits are not the easiest to understand to begin with and as healthcare continues to evolve with employees needing to take a greater role in the decision-making process, the right education and communication is critical,” said Elena Wu, vice president, Group Marketing and Learning Services at Guardian.
“As we gear up for the annual open enrollment period, it is important for employers to realize that the benefits selection process must be top-notch, and communicated effectively, in order to ensure the highest employee satisfaction possible.”
Preferences vary by employee, so single-focused communication efforts, such as only communicating benefits-related information via email, is not likely to have as great of an impact as a benefits communication plan that encompasses multiple channels, the study found, especially during the enrollment period.
Almost 20 percent of employees said they would like to receive benefits communications through six or more options.
When exposed to the same message through different mediums, employees said they are more likely to understand their options.
Eighty percent of workers appreciate being able to sign up for benefits online so they can enroll when and where they choose, and 9 in 10 workers say they are quite satisfied with the online enrollment experience.
The study shows that when employees have benefits communications delivered in the channels they prefer, and are able to enroll in the channel they prefer, they are more likely to make more informed enrollment decisions and ultimately feel more satisfied with their benefits.
This employee confidence in benefits choices then reflects well on their employers, leading to greater loyalty. Employees who are more confident and satisfied with their benefits selections have a higher perceived value of their company’s benefits.
These employees go on to have longer tenure with their current employers and are more likely to say that they plan to stay in their current positions, the study found. Although many factors can affect engagement, it is clear that an effort to enhance the employee’s benefits experience overall can play a major role in creating a positive outcome for not just the worker but also their employer.
The data from this study came from two separate Internet surveys conducted concurrently among 1,667 benefits plan participants and 1,071 benefits plan sponsors. Plan participant results were conducted among those age 22 or older who work full time for a company with at least five employees.
The plan sponsor survey was conducted among employee benefits decision makers, including business executives, business owners, human resources professionals, and financial management professionals. The Center for Strategy Research, a Boston-based, independent, market research firm, conducted the interviews from May-June 2012.