Open Enrollment: A Chance to Boost Employee Morale

Effective education is key to a more satisfied, engaged workforce

By Stephen Miller, CEBS Sep 12, 2011

Employee morale remains well below 2008 levels, but benefits education continues to be a reliably effective way to boost workforce satisfaction, according to research from benefits firm Unum.

The third annual survey of workers, done most recently following the 2010 benefits enrollment period, found that 63 percent of U.S. employees think their employer values their work, down from 70 percent in 2008. The survey, conducted among 1,712 employed adults, found that even fewer, 56 percent, felt that their employer cared about their well-being—a 7 point drop since 2008.

“In this difficult economic environment, there may be many reasons employee morale has not bounced back,” said Bill Dalicandro, vice president at Unum. “But our research shows that benefits education can be a highly effective, low-cost way to boost engagement.”

Benefits Education Gets Short Shrift

In an environment where nearly 30 percent of employees have seen colleagues laid off and one in four has experienced a salary freeze, employers should be spending more time communicating about benefits with their employees so that they feel valued.

But the research shows that they’re not.

Employers continue to focus on other areas of their business affected by the economy, spending less time and fewer resources on employee engagement, particularly in relation to benefits education:

Nearly one-third of employees said the benefits education provided by their employers was insufficient.

Only about half of employees said they received printed information or brochures, down from 70 percent in 2008.

Just over a third of employees were offered a chance to attend an information and question-and-answer session about benefits, down from 52 percent in 2008.

The percentage who had access to online materials fell from 51 percent in 2008 to 36 percent in 2010.

A good benefits education program can have a big impact on workforce satisfaction. The survey found that:

80 percent of employees who rated their benefits education highly also rated the employer as an excellent or very good place to work.

Conversely, only 31 percent of employees who rated their benefits education poorly said their employer was an excellent or very good place to work.

Some 77 percent of those who rated their benefits education highly said they would choose to stay with their current employer even if they were offered the same pay and benefits elsewhere.

“People are the lifeblood of any successful business, and in this challenging economy employers need to work even harder to demonstrate their concern for employees and their well-being,” said Dalicandro. “Everyone benefits when they do.”

Stephen Miller, CEBS, is an online editor/manager for SHRM.​

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