4 Tips to Boost Benefits Engagement

Employees view the HR department as the top source of benefits advice

By Eric Reisenwitz and Audrey Im Oct 27, 2015

Eric Reisenwitz is senior vice president, operations and product, group protection, and Audrey Im is associate vice president, health and welfare, human resources, at Lincoln Financial Group, based in the greater Philadelphia area.

Choosing workplace benefits is similar to choosing a restaurant for an important celebration: Employees will often stick with what they know, which is likely to be somewhere they’ve gone before.

But that choice is typically based more on what they don’t know. Ninety-five percent of employees say they are more likely to enroll in benefits they feel familiar with and educated about, a 2015 survey by Lincoln Financial Group showed. But only about 1 in 3 (37 percent) say the information they receive on benefits is easy to understand.

HR professionals can play an integral role in educating employees and helping them make better benefits decisions. In our research, employees indicated that their HR department was the top source of advice and informationabout nonmedical benefits.

For open enrollment season, here are four tips to reach employees:

1. Tap into your communications and marketing pros.

HR professionals should communicate proactively during open enrollment, but benefits can also be a part of the conversation year-round. Your external communications team may have resources that can be used to more effectively communicate internally with your employees. Ask them.

Using your communications resources, on a monthly or quarterly basis send out an FAQ about one benefit offering. Keep it simple and start with a definition; many employees might not even know what disability insurance provides, for instance. A companywide internal newsletter and/or an intranet site are good places to feature this content. Employees may focus their attention on medical coverage during open enrollment, so use off-cycle time to educate them about other offerings.

Include personal stories about how your employees are making the most of their benefits. Request examples from all around the organization, including senior management, and include personal quotes and photos. Some benefits can seem abstract; this makes them tangible.

2. Present your benefit offerings as a total package.

When employees can access everything in one place, and all of their benefits are presented together, it makes the enrollment process easy and user-friendly.

Consider holding a “Total Rewards Week” to help employees get to know their benefit options. Include giveaways as an incentive for attendance at events and have benefit providers available to answer questions. It’s another way to remind employees about all the benefits the company offers, beyond medical benefits.

3. Offer benefit-education workshops.

Provide an overview of coverage, and definitely allow for Q&A. This is key—about 50 percent of employees still want to speak with a person about their benefit choices. Even in our digital world, human interaction on important issues is still essential.

A workshop can be in the form of a webinar, a large town hall meeting or several smaller group meetings; whatever best suits the employee population. To ensure employees won’t miss these events, consider hosting multiple sessions on different days and providing a webinar for employees who are unable to attend or are remote. Recording a session or webinar for employees to review on their own time is also beneficial, in case they miss it or would like to go back and review certain sections.

4. Make management an advocate.

Start from the top. If senior and mid-level managers are aware of and knowledgeable about benefit offerings, they can informally disseminate that knowledge to their respective teams. Managers and supervisors can encourage employees to participate in educational events and to use the resources made available. They can also give reminders of important timing and deadlines.

Help employees get rid of the uncertainty and confusion that comes along with open enrollment each year. Make education a priority—the majority of employees say they want “a simple enrollment process that makes it easy to understand what products I need.” Human resources can help them get there.

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