In 2009—a year when nearly half (45 percent) of U.S. employees experienced a change in their workplace benefits—education about those benefits dropped off just when it was most needed, according to a study on behalf of Unum, a provider of employee insurance.
“The past year brought a lot of upheaval for businesses, and efforts to help employees understand their benefits apparently suffered as companies worked day to day to navigate unpredictable economic conditions,” said Bill Dalicandro, vice president for enrollment with Unum. “But as the benefits landscape is shifting, it is more important than ever to give employees the right tools to understand their benefits choices and to communicate what’s available to them.”
The report on Unum's survey of 1,106 working adults (conducted from Dec. 9-11, 2009) shows that 45 percent of U.S. employees reported that they had seen changes in their benefits packages, including 31 percent who said they are paying more for benefits, and 9 percent who reported at least one benefit was discontinued.
At the same time, across every age group, fewer employees said they had received effective education about their benefits compared to 2008. In 2008, 39 percent of workers gave their benefits education positive ratings. In 2009, that number dropped to 29 percent.
As the perception of the quality of their benefits education declined, employees reported lower ratings of their employers as a place to work and lower opinions of their employee benefits packages.
“Our research reveals a strong connection between the quality of benefits education and employees’ perception of their workplace,” said Dalicandro, adding that even if employees don’t have a particularly good benefits package, effective benefits education makes them more likely to consider their employer a good place to work.
Among full- or part-time employees who said they receive effective benefits education, the survey found that:
• 90 percent said their employer values their work.
• 88 percent were satisfied with their job.
• 88 percent also would recommend their employer as a good place to work.
Stephen Miller is an online editor/manager for SHRM.
More Employees Take Active Role in Selecting Health Benefits, SHRM Online Benefits Discipline, April 2010
'Holistic' Approach Recommended for Benefits Enrollments, SHRM Online Benefits Discipline, November 2009
Pointers Can Help Workers Make Informed Benefits Choices, SHRM Online Benefits Discipline, September 2009
How to Develop an Effective Benefits Communication Strategy, SHRM Online Benefits Discipline, September 2009
SHRM Online Benefits DisciplineSHRM Online Health Care Reform web page