How Much Do Your Employees Know About Their Benefits?

A new survey found many employees don’t read their employee handbooks. Here’s a look at how to better communicate benefits information.

How do you tell your staff about their employee benefits? If it’s via a handbook, chances are a lot of your employees may not be getting all the information.

According to a new survey [PDF] by employee engagement and communications company GuideSpark, 43 percent of millennials and 30 percent of non-millennials are not reading most of their handbooks. The survey of about 550 full-time employees also found that 11 percent of millennials hadn’t even opened their handbooks, and 23 percent of millennials and 36 percent of non-millennials didn’t know where their handbooks were anymore.

While the survey focused mainly on the disconnect among millennials, it highlights the importance of effectively communicating employer-sponsored benefits, which can play an important role in attracting and keeping top talent.

According to MetLife’s 2014 “U.S. Employee Benefit Trends Study,” 43 percent of employees strongly agreed that benefits were an important reason why they chose to work for their employer. Fifty percent strongly agreed that benefits are an important reason to remain with their employer, indicating the importance of good communication not just at the outset of employment but throughout an employee’s tenure.

Echoing the GuideSpark findings are some stats from a 2013 Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) survey, which found that only 14 percent of employees were very knowledgeable about employer-sponsored benefits that were available to them. Seventy-two percent were somewhat knowledgeable and 14 percent were not very knowledgeable.

Most, 84 percent, of the roughly 450 HR professionals surveyed reported using online or paper enrollment materials to communicate benefits information. Among the other methods organizations use to communicate about benefits:

  • group communications with an organizational representative (65 percent)
  • one-to-one counseling with an organizational representative (51 percent)
  • intranet (48 percent)
  • direct mail to residence (41 percent)
  • online or paper newsletters (39 percent)
  • benefit fairs (26 percent)
  • virtual education (13 percent)
  • social media (4 percent)

With so many options for communicating benefits information and with so many employees reporting they are only “somewhat” or “not very” knowledgeable of available options, how do you determine the most effective means of communicating this information?

One possible solution may be to ask employees what they want, Audrey Boone Tillman, executive vice president of corporate services at Aflac, told SHRM. Tillman recommended surveying employees to determine what they need and want.

Tillman also recommended using a mix of methods. Don’t simply rely on a handbook, for example. Pair that with one-on-one sessions with agency representatives or lunch-and-learn sessions. Also, communicate with employees year-round, not just during new-employee orientation or open enrollment.

Another tip: The GuideSpark study suggests using video. Sixteen percent of the surveyed employees reported their organizations are currently using video for communicating benefits information, but with the huge growth in consumers’ video consumption there could be a growing opportunity for organizations to leverage this communication channel for HR purposes.

How do you communicate benefits information to your staff? Let us know in the comments.


Katie Bascuas

By Katie Bascuas

Katie Bascuas is associate editor of Associations Now. MORE

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