The tight labor market has required employers to be more strategic than ever, and that goes double for communicating the value of benefits.
Benefits demonstrate empathy. And studies prove, employees are more loyal to organizations that demonstrate empathy. However, employees are not always aware of their benefits, or, they were never communicated fully during the onboarding process. What's the key to successfully communicating benefits to your employees?
It’s a tough concept to capture in just a few words. Digital transformation expert Oscar Berg puts it this way. “It is about sharing all the information the receiver wants or needs, and not just the information that the sender is willing to share. It is about putting all facts on the table, even when some of them are uncomfortable… It is about enabling people to have conversations where questions can be asked and answered in open and honest ways, creating mutual understanding. It is about removing any barriers that hinder people from accessing the information they could need to be better at their jobs.”
All these attributes of transparency can be applied to benefits communication. Here are three tips for increasing your employees’ perception of transparency in the benefits you offer.
Start off on the right foot
As my colleague, Sherri Bockhorst, mentioned in her March blog, new hire orientation matters. Whether your orientation is 5 hours or 5 days, make sure to set aside time to talk benefits. You already did the hard work of getting your new hires to sign the dotted line. During those negotiations, compensation was probably a major topic while benefits played second fiddle. But now that they’re hired and sitting in your orientation class, you have a fantastic opportunity to highlight the benefits you offer.
- Talk about why your company offers the benefits it does. Are they a reflection of your values and culture? Briefly describe each one and provide examples of who might be interested in certain benefits based on their life stages, interests or other factors. And, of course, allow time for Q&A. One size doesn’t fit all, especially as the number of benefits continues to increase to meet the needs of a diverse workforce. But within a group of new hires, chances are many will have the same questions. Now is your chance to answer them so you won’t have to address them later.
- Provide an introduction to the tools your employees will use to select their benefits. Will they be able to enroll in all their benefits through your integrated platform or do they need to know that certain benefits will require them to access a different system? What do they need to know to have a predictable — and positive — experience?
- Point them in the direction of the decision support tools you offer to help them make the right decisions. Does your platform offer such a tool for determining employee comfort level in regard to risk tolerance, life stage and financial status? Or perhaps you have groups within your organization where more experienced employees can offer personal advice, such as a social circle for new parents.
Use a real-time total rewards tool
HR professionals often talk about “total rewards” as a concept; it’s the entire package of compensation, benefits and perks tied to a set of allocated funds for hiring and retention. To ensure your employees have the same holistic and transparent view of their benefits package, consider using a real-time total rewards solution: a fully integrated online platform that provides a complete view of their entire benefits and compensation package. With one cohesive set of data accessible from anywhere — e.g., a desktop or a mobile app — this kind of solution brings together vital financial and benefits information in a way that isn’t just user-friendly, but consumer-friendly. If you don’t have such a solution, pitch the idea to your decision makers using some salient value propositions. A total rewards solution can:
- Increase awareness and clearly communicate to employees their total compensation before they start looking for a position outside your organization.
- Leverage technology to help employees interact with their benefits selections and ensure they maximize their value, thereby increasing employee engagement and retention.
- Meet the needs of an increasingly diverse workforce. With four active generations of employees in organizations today, one size never fits all. Annual compensation statements are being replaced by real-time tools that are personalized for each employee
Increasingly, HR professionals are being asked to do more with less, especially when it comes to benefits: these teams are smaller than ever before, but are expected to deliver 2, 3 or 4 times as many options than they did just 10 years ago. As with many endeavors, the solution is not to work harder, but to work smarter. When communicating benefits to your employees, be transparent and think strategically. The result will be less work for you in the long run and a greater sense of trust among your employees.
- Be relevant. Tailor your messages based on whom you’re communicating with and how they use their benefits. Also, be selective. A reminder about HSA catchup contributions to a 23-year-old employee will only train them to ignore you.
- Communicate year-round. Don’t only communicate when employees are making benefits decisions. Provide information throughout the year, when people are actually using their benefits. This helps them become better and more engaged consumers.
- Use preferred communication channels. Use your benefits administration solution to learn how each employee prefers to be contacted. Send web-based information to those who request it, use text messaging to those who prefer it and send expensive printed materials only to those who ask for them.
Want to learn more about realizing the ROI on your benefits communication spend? Need ideas for making your case to the C-suite? Check out this infographic.