Benefits communication: How to improve your strategies

By: Michelle Higgins

Publication: Benefits & Compensation Regulatory Alert

Date Posted: 10/01/2019

How often do you communicate with employees about their benefits? Only at open enrollment?

While that sparseness may have been sufficient years ago, employees today want (and need) to hear more about their benefit options. With a multigenerational and diverse workforce, the methods of benefits communication might vary. What matters most, however, is that it occurs. Whether it’s done over email, in person, or by snail mail, consider these three tips to make it easier and more effective.

Get feedback on employee benefits

Before diving in headfirst, get feedback from your employees not only about what benefits they value, but also about which communication methods work best for them and their dependents. Promoting benefit options via company email or intranet might be all right to a point, but if employees’ spouses or dependent children have questions, you might need to think outside the box.

How do you let family members know about the Employee Assistance Program (EAP)? What about sharing information about discounts at area businesses? These types of benefits might be underutilized, and getting the word out might help a family in need. Check with employees for ideas on offering reminders about these services. For example, they might suggest printing flyers to take home and post on the refrigerator.

Q: Do we have to offer the same benefits to all employees?

A: From a federal perspective, the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) does not govern time not worked, such as vacations, sick leave, or holidays. These benefits are a matter of agreement between an employer and an employee. Employers can certainly offer different benefits to different categories of employees (e.g., full-time, part-time, etc.) It’s a matter of what’s written in the company policy and how those categories are defined. The company would just want to be sure to be fair across the board and not discriminate against any protected classes.

Keep it simple when reviewing employee benfits

Reviewing benefit information can be overwhelming – especially for new employees. This may be the first time they are making important decisions that will affect both their medical and financial futures. Imagine how relieved employees would be to have good grasp on how their benefits work.

Equip your employees with the information they need to make good benefit decisions. Avoid HR jargon. Use everyday terms that are easy for employees and their families to understand. For example, instead of saying “premium,” say “the monthly fee to have insurance.”

Build a habit of sharing benefit information

Open enrollment is a great time to get the ball rolling, but don’t let it be a one-and-done message. Communication should be an ongoing process throughout the year, not just at open enrollment time. Get in the habit of sharing benefits information on a regular basis. For example, remind employees about cost-saving options for medical care, discounts on back-to-school items, and company-subsidized gym memberships.

Whatever benefits your company has to offer, rotate the message so employees get a full understanding of all the benefits available to them and their families.

Much like in personal relationships, communication is key. Without it, employees may not feel engaged in their work — they just punch a time clock (literally or figuratively), work, and go home. By having a vested interest in what the company has to offer beyond a paycheck, employees might feel a stronger connection and be more likely to stay.

Key to remember: Employers should communicate with employees year-round about benefit offerings. Investing some time and a little effort toward better benefits communication will likely reap dividends for both the company and employees.

Benefits jargon can be confusing. Try these examples of simpler language for employees:

BeneficiaryA person you select to receive money from insurance and retirement plans if you die.

Co-payment A set dollar amount you pay at the time you receive medical care.

Deductible The total amount of money you must pay out of pocket for medical care before your insurance pays.

Open Enrollment A specified timeframe for employees to sign up for insurance.

Preferred Provider A physician or practice who is contracted to provide medical care at a discounted rate.

About the author
Michelle Higgins - Human Resources Editor

Michelle Higgins is an Associate Editor on the Human Resources Publishing Team and she creates content on a variety of employment-related topics including benefits, compensation, overtime, wage deductions, exempt/nonexempt employees, health and retirement plans, independent contractors, and child labor.

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