Employers are dropping the ball on benefits education
  • leadership
  • Blog post

Employers are dropping the ball on benefits education

If you’re a typical employer in America today, you’re not doing a very good job educating your employees about the benefits you offer.

Sorry to sound harsh, but that’s the conclusion emerging from a new employee benefits survey published by Unum, a provider of disability and other kinds of insurance.

In fact, the survey — conducted for Unum by the Harris organization — found that benefits education was at its least effective level since 2008, the year Unum started surveying U.S. workers on the topic. This year’s survey, of 1,521 working adults, discovered that only 33% of participants thought they had received an excellent or very good education about their benefits from their employers. A relatively high number — 28% — said their benefits education was just fair or poor.

Employee satisfaction
Why does this matter? Because, according to the survey, there’s a close correlation between the quality of benefits education offered and employees’ overall satisfaction with their employer.

Of those who said they’d received an excellent or very good education about their benefits, 77% rated their employers as an excellent or very good place to work. Just 30% of those who deemed their benefits education to be lacking rated their employers highly overall.

You can’t tell from the survey whether a good benefits education was the sole or main driving factor in employees’ high rating of their employers; it’s possible, of course, that employers who are good at benefits education are good at many other things, too, and that’s why employees like them. But at the very least, it’s fair to conclude that doing a good job at benefits education contributes to employees’ idea of you as a great place to work.

Improving your performance
So then the question becomes, if we need to improve our benefits education for employees, how can we go about it?

Unum says one key is recognizing the three different learning styles your employees are likely to exhibit, and tailoring your benefits education/communication to them:

  • For visual learners — people who need to see things to retain them — you can provide printed materials with illustrations and/or videos.
  • For auditory learners — people who learn best by hearing — you can concoct podcasts, audio conferences and/or videos.
  • For tactile learners — people who learn best by “putting their hands on” the thing — you can turn to such things as interactive online tools and either online or physical work sheets that the employee fills out.

What’s working
Unum adds that overall, the method of benefits education that’s most likely to be used by the average employee is printed materials, picked up at work or sent home. This is followed in frequency of usage by personalized benefit statements, information via employer intranets, e-mails from the employer, and interactive tools.

Note that these methods are all aimed at the individual, as opposed to the group, and all allow the employee to peruse the materials on his or her own time. Tools like benefits fairs, group meetings or conference calls tend to draw lesser employee participation these days.

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