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Communicating Your Benefits Value Calculus
 

By Stephen Miller  4/7/2009
 

Helping employees recognize the value of their company-sponsored benefits is always smart and beneficial; doing so during tough economic times is imperative.

“Nothing better illustrates the value of company-offered health care plans than COBRA — especially now with all the media attention surrounding the 65 percent COBRA subsidy passed by Congress to help newly unemployed Americans afford the level of benefits they had while employed,” says Jennifer Benz, founder and chief strategist of Benz Communications. “Unfortunately, many companies neglect to tell their employees the true cost of their health care benefits. As a result, employees rarely realize what a great deal they’re getting on their benefits—until they’re paying for it themselves.”

Benz maintains that it doesn’t have to be that way. “There are many simple ways companies can help employees appreciate and understand the value of their benefits — while they are still working. And, as employees value benefits more than company culture or advancement opportunities (according to a 2009 MetLife study), why not give them a full understanding of just how valuable those benefits are, especially given the current economic environment when stress is high and budgets are tight,” she adds.

Benz recommends five ways to increase employee understanding of their company-sponsored benefits:

Get employees to use the plans
Nothing demonstrates real value better than use. Encourage employee engagement with simple reminders about how and why they should be using their benefits. Promote preventive care, remind employees about the fitness incentive or wellness programs, explain all the ways your employee assistance program (EAP) can help well beyond counseling, and market on-site resources or discount programs aggressively.

Explain what it means to be self-insured
Employers who self-insure often forget to explain this, which leaves employees to assume that “the insurance company” is picking up the tab. Explain what it means to be self-insured and how that translates into what the company is providing.

Show the employer and employee contributions
At new-hire enrollment, during open enrollment and whenever employees submit life-event changes, show the employer and the employee contributions. Many companies let employees know the percentage of payments they pay—such as, “We pay 85 percent of premiums”—but never reveal the actual number, which speaks volumes.

Promote your total rewards statement
If you have a print or online total rewards or total compensation statement, make sure your employees are seeing it. (If you don’t have one, create one.) These statements “add up” the employer’s investment in benefits and can be a great help to managers during the salary conversations that will surely be happening during 2009.

Ask for feedback
Do you know what your employees want or need? Let them tell you what would make the benefits program more valuable or easier to use. Some of their suggestions could prove useful—and you’ll earn their respect for valuing their opinions and ideas.

Stephen Miller is an online editor/manager for SHRM.

Related Articles:

Benefits Communication—A Tool to Boost Morale, SHRM Online Benefits Discipline, April 2009

In Hard Times, Employees Place More Value on Benefits, SHRM Online Benefits Discipline, March 2009

Most Workers Underestimate Employer’s Health Costs, but Value 401(k) Matches, SHRM Online Benefits Discipline, March 2009

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