Many employees have a shockingly minimal knowledge of the benefits programs available to them, which is why they don't value them appropriately, says Nenette Kress, senior vice president and national practice leader of Segal/MGC Communications.
A big reason is that “there is often not enough communication about how benefits programs fit together to provide a supportive environment for employees to grow both professionally and personally,” she says.
Kress advocates using a total rewards approach to integrate all the rewards of work under a single structure, which helps employees and candidates more easily view and appreciate the value proposition being offered by an employer. (To learn more about a total rewards approach, see the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) report Implementing Total Rewards Strategies.)
Once benefits programs are viewed holistically, a variety of tools and media can be used to educate employees and communicate how to make the best use of them. These approaches include:
• Distribute fully personalized statements. All the generic information in the world won't have the impact of giving employees their own personal snapshots—in print and online. Aim to include all quantifiable rewards (salary and bonus; health/wellness, retirement and work/life benefits; additional perks) on the statement pages, and add a cover page to introduce and provide context for the statement and link it to the organization's employer/employee philosophy.
• Create online video interviews or podcasts/audio files. For example, present employee total rewards success stories of financial and other life goals met, and answer frequently asked questions.
Tip: A "how to read your statement" online presentation (slideshow, video or podcast/audio file) can help employees understand and value their personalized statements.
• Promote online open enrollment. Again, this can be done with an online slideshow, video presentation and/or audio file.
• Launch an internal blog. The blog can promote what might be under-appreciated initiatives such as wellness programs, remind employees about the value of their 401(k)s or defined benefit pensions, and provide advice on making the right choice at annual enrollment. Select internal subject matter experts to develop and manage the content.
• Measure the success of your total rewards communications with online surveys. Showing survey participants real-time results and offering a lottery prize are ways to up survey participation.
• High-touch, too. Don't forget the power of in-person presentations, especially by the CEO, when issues or messages are complex, challenging or negative.
Benefits Statements Can Spotlight Hidden value, SHRM Online Benefits Discipline, April 2011
Communicating Your Benefits value Calculus, SHRM Online Benefits Discipline, April 2009
Stephen Miller is manager of SHRM Online’s Compensation & Benefits Focus Area.