Develop a Corporate Employee Benefits Communications Plan

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According to studies by ADP, a leading provider of human resources management and payroll services, 80 percent of human resource decision makers think it’s important for employees to understand their full benefit options. Unfortunately, they estimate that only around 60 percent of their employees do so. This indicates a breakdown between the expectations of HR leaders and the reality that many employees don’t understand the value of their employer-sponsored benefits.

Do your employees know what benefits your company provides? Do you communicate this to existing employees or is it something they only see during recruitment and onboarding? Do you have a benefits communication plan to keep them updated so they aren't lured away by competitors?

Changing a Variety of Employee Benefits

Employers spend a great deal of time and money making sure that their employees have the very best possible benefits. It’s all a part of making sure employees are happy and healthy in order to be productive at work. Based on the most recent research, organizations in the USA spend around $0.43 for every dollar of payroll just for employee benefits, including health, dental, vision, and prescription insurance, life insurance, retirement funds, stock options, paid time off, and employee assistance programs.

These figures do not even take into consideration the many other perks and benefits that companies invest in to make the workplace better, like flexible scheduling, corporate discount programs, and casual work attire. And the benefits just keep on increasing. In a special 20-year edition of its annual Employee Benefits research report, released in 2016, the Society for Human Resources Management released it’s 2016 Employee Benefits research report, noted that, as compared to the 1990s, employers are providing a much richer benefits package to employees than ever before—as a result of trying to increase retention rates and improve recruitment efforts in a competitive market.

Communicating Employee Benefits

The problem is, companies are not doing enough to communicate the value of their programs so that employees are aware of them, or understand their options. Too many firms often limit their communication efforts to specific times, like during recruitment, onboarding, or open enrollment periods.

The good news is that in today's technology-driven world, there are multiple ways to communicate employee benefits with your workforce. It is important to note that each employer will want to evaluate how employees prefer to be informed and then develop plans to tap into these resources when creating communications. Read on to learn some of the different ways that employers share benefit-plan information with employees.

Printed Materials

From single printed pages to full-scale marketing campaigns, many companies turn to written and printed documentation to share employee group benefits information. This can be very effective because information can quickly be disseminated to all employees at any time of the year. Marketing communications can also be beefed-up during peak times, such as open enrollment and employee onboarding processing. Additionally, written and printed documentation of benefits information can be edited as benefit plans change.

It is important to note that all written documentation should include access to a detailed explanation of benefits as supplied by plan administrators. Create a set of printed benefits documents for employees that include rate schedules and coverage amounts, and a separate set of documents that are designed to provide basic benefit information to candidates before they are recruited for employment. If your workplace is multi-cultural, you may also want to create a set of documents that are translated into other languages for ease in communicating benefits to all employees.

Information Meetings

Whether handled informally or via formal sessions facilitated by your benefit plan administrators, benefit meetings can be an effective way of getting plan information and questions answered quickly. Make it a policy that all new hires get a chance to talk with a benefit plan administrator before selecting any benefits for the coming year.

Your on-site benefit administrator can also be available to schedule meetings with employees if they have specific questions about how to use their benefits. This can be especially important if there are claims issues. During open enrollment, make sure that your plan administrative team is also available to conduct talks to highlight important updates to the benefit plan and encourage more employees to participate in the group offerings.

Digital Communication Methods

We now live in a world where digital communication has become the norm. Digital communication includes emails, text messaging, instant messaging, mobile apps, and more. Consider how you can get benefit information out to your employees on a regular basis to remind them of all the perks that they have available to them.

For example, during the first part of the year, many of your employees will be thinking about getting fit, losing weight, or developing other healthier habits. Use this time as an opportunity to share information about the company wellness program or how the company is committed to helping employees stop smoking. During the summer months, when outdoor activities increase and kids are out of school, you may want to feature information about staying safe in the sun and familial benefits.

A good rule of thumb when using digital communication is to keep messaging brief and to the point.

Corporate Benefits Portals and Websites

ADP's surveys indicate that nine out of 10 large companies, and seven out of 10 mid-size companies, have a web-based benefit portal for hosting employee benefits information and resources. This is a secure way for employers to share important benefits information and instructions for enrolling in benefit plans. Benefit websites must be encrypted to the highest level possible and designed with a single-sign-on process to protect personal health information and other data, locked behind user credentials.

Making the most of a website portal for benefits communication can include:

  • Setting up a simple system for accessing the portal online and through mobile devices
  • Adding valuable content that relates to the benefits and wellness goals of employees
  • Providing a central contact number where employees can get live help
  • Sharing updates and plan documents that can be downloaded on demand
  • Linking the benefits website to the company intranet
  • Ensuring the website is 508 compliant so that all employees have access
  • Include content that is easy to translate into other languages
  • Adding a glossary of basic benefit terminology and a library of benefit topics

Social Network Communications

Social networking can also be a very effective way of communicating employee benefits. Many employees find this to be a friendly way of dealing with HR. Each company should have access to their own business page or at least create one for the purposes of communicating important updates including information about benefit plans.

Select from one of the major social media networks such as Facebook or Twitter to allow for the greatest amount of sharing and content choices. Assign a benefits administrator and a member of the marketing team to work together to create benefits messages that encourage participation in the group plans. Share health and wellness tips, financial responsibility tips, and updates to enrollment periods. Include success stories and pictures of employees meeting their wellness goals.

Total Compensation Statements

In order to make a bigger impact when communicating benefits, it is advised that your company sends out at least an annual statement of total compensation to all employees. This is a document that is organized by salary, benefits, and other perks that the company offers to employees. It is a written document that shows in black and white how much the company is investing in every employee.

As evidenced by research, many employees don't realize how much the workplace benefits them so that a total compensation statement can create a meaningful dialogue between you and employees. If you are not sure how to create a total rewards or compensation statement, work with a third-party provider to organize all of your data into one central document. Provide a snail mail copy of the total compensation statement as well as a digital copy that you can email to employees. 

Additional Best Practices

When preparing materials, avoid jargon. In fact, don't assume employees understand even basic benefits terminology. When communicating with your employees, keep things simple and in terms that they can understand. If there are complex concepts that need further explanation, use your web portal to create a glossary of terminology that they can review when needed.

It is important to plan as early as possible before peak periods of enrollment in order to increase the chances that employees will comprehend their benefits. Use a variety of mediums because every generation and culture absorb information differently.

Seek support from your benefit plan administrator when gathering additional materials, including marketing materials and plan summary documents. Be creative and keep employee benefits friendly. You will be more successful in transferring the value of benefits to your employees so they will take advantage of these perks of employment.