How Employer Communication Strategies Can Improve Benefits Decisions
As employees are asked to take on more responsibility for managing and financing their benefits, new research shows that employees want and need help making better decisions about their benefits.
Results from Lincoln Financial Group’s 2017 Employee Benefits Study
indicate that a large majority of employees – 87% – are more likely to enroll in benefits if they feel familiar with them. In addition, 43% of employees suggest that having someone to talk to about their choices would increase their engagement, while 53% would like their manager to talk to them about their benefits.
The study further shows that employees indicate relatively low levels of understanding about benefits, particularly for unpaid leave, and disability, accident and critical illness insurance. And while self-stated levels of knowledge for benefits such as retirement plans was higher, the percentage of employees responding that they know a lot about their retirement savings plan was only 63%.
In addition, the report shows that only 26% of employees say their employer is “very proactive” in helping them understand their benefit offerings and nearly half (44%) say they have never felt confident about their benefits choices.
Why the lack of confidence? Financial stress appears to be one factor. Immediate financial concerns distracts employees from focusing on benefit offerings, which are viewed more as longer-term safety nets, according to the report. And while an overwhelming majority of employees said they feel secure in their lives, just 31% of employees feel very “in control” of their financial futures and just 33% feel very “in control” of their health.
These findings point to a need for more information from employers, according to the authors. “It is essential for employers, benefits brokers, consultants, providers and carriers to work together to implement practical strategies and solutions to improve employee participation in their benefits, help them engage more fully, and ultimately make the kinds of decisions that will maximize the positive impact benefits can have on their lives.”
To help employees better understand their benefit offerings, the report offers three tips: 1. Communicate simply and consistently.
Nearly 60% of employees would prefer to receive benefits information year-round. Moreover, the report suggests using a simple four-point formula: How much does it cost? What’s covered? What or how much do I need? What’s the benefit?
2. Take a multi-channel approach, including personalized guidance.
72% of employee respondents would prefer personal recommendations on benefits, rather than general advice, and 73% of employees are open to trusting an online system to help them choose their benefits. Moreover, online tools and calculators can help provide an employee with insights specific to their individual situation, according to the report. 3. Focus on the motivations behind benefit decision-making and tailor messages based on employees’ needs.
The report suggests developing a survey that asks employees to identify the emotions, values and motivators in their lives to help shape communications.
Results are based on a national survey of 2,500 employed adults, conducted by Lincoln Financial Group and PSB between April 13 and May 2, 2017. Data is weighted to reflect the proportion of U.S. employees by gender, age, region, race and ethnicity based on data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and the U.S. Census Bureau.