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Employee Benefits Communication: How to Overcome Common Challenges

Benefits are good. But do your employees know what they’re getting? Our tips about employee benefits communication will ensure that yours do.
Written by: Penny Swift
employee benefits communication
Published: February 20, 2024
importance of the internal communication

The Importance of Internal Communication

Effective internal communication is the backbone of every successful organization. Learn the ins and outs of internal communications with our research-backed white paper.

Miscommunication or a lack of communication about employee benefits can easily lead to decreased employment satisfaction and increased turnover. 

The Qualtrics 2023 Employee Experience Trends report says employees who are satisfied with their pay and benefits are 26% more likely to have their expectations exceeded and 13% more likely to continue working with their employers for more than three years. The report also states that pay and benefits are top drivers when it comes to employees’ intent to stay with their place of employment. While 52% believe pay is linked to performance, 68% of employees in North America felt their benefits met their needs.

employee benefits satisfaction

A year on, the Qualtrics 2024 Employee Experience Trends report states that 50% of non-frontline employees are happy with their benefits. But new employees are unhappy with pay and benefits. This reiterates that compensation was a key driver of employee experience versus expectations during 2023. But, in 2024, while it’s still going to be important to ensure employees have benefits, it’ll be more important to allow employees to contribute to organizational changes. 

So, do employees want a say in the benefits they receive? This is confirmed by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) 2023 Employee Benefits Survey which found 71% of employees want more information about their benefits choices, especially younger generations. 

There is no denying how important it is to understand what employee benefits communication entails and why it’s necessary. This is why it’s crucial to identify the common challenges organizations face. It is also vital to identify the strategies organizations can use to overcome these challenges. In fact, it’s integral to achieving a company’s objectives. 

We are going to explore aspects of employee benefits and employee benefits communication. We’ll touch on employee benefits programs and guidance on how to improve the benefits communication strategy in your business.

What is Employee Benefits Communication?

Employee benefits communication is a specialized area of corporate and HR communications that focuses on conveying information about employee compensation beyond salaries. This includes various kinds of benefits such as health care, retirement plans, personal insurance, and wellness benefits. Effective employee benefits communication helps employees understand their total compensation and enhances the overall employee experience.

what is employee benefits communication

There are many different definitions of employee benefits communication. For example, the SHRM glossary defines it as “the process of informing employees about their benefits options and how to access and use them.” The  International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans (IFEBP) glossary defines it as “the process of providing clear, concise, and timely information about employee benefits programs to employees and their dependents.”

But, what does it mean to employees?

Gallagher’s State of the Sector 2022/23 report stated that while the majority of organizations internally communicate about strategy, vision, and purpose, smaller organizations are more likely to focus on benefits, rewards and compensation, and employee recognition.

Their State of the Sector 2023/24 reports that strategy, vision, and purpose as a communication topic was divisive. While it topped the list for which managers are extensively relied upon, it also ranked in the top five where they’re relied on the least — because employees don’t want an intermediary.

The fact is that everything from economic uncertainty to family health concerns, and issues at work can all take a toll on employees. 

“That’s why every aspect of your benefits and compensation program needs to work in concert to promote overall employee wellbeing. Offering robust medical coverage and a competitive retirement plan isn’t enough in today’s hyper-competitive labor market.”

State of the Sector 2023/24

Types of Employee Benefits

Employee benefits can take several forms and traditionally fall under the following categories:

  • Health care, which includes medical, dental, and vision coverage alongside specific wellness programs.
  • Retirement savings plans that include defined contribution plans like 401(k) along with similar retirement savings structures such as IRA or Roth IRA accounts.
  • Wellness benefits that may include gym memberships, mental health resources, or any other wellness initiatives.
  • Personal insurance that could encompass life insurance, disability insurance, and possibly legal assistance insurance.

Why is Effective Communication Crucial for Employee Benefits?

Effective communication plays a critical role in ensuring the success of benefits programs. HR professionals need to communicate employee benefits accurately and vividly to ensure a satisfactory employee experience. Poor communication can lead to the underutilization of benefits, which ultimately decreases the perceived value of benefits packages offered to employees. Furthermore, well-conducted benefits communication efforts can help increase employee engagement, contribute to better financial wellness, and enhance total staff satisfaction.

Importance of Benefits for Employees

  • Increases understanding of benefits: Clear internal communication about benefits helps employees grasp what benefits they have, how to utilize them, and navigate enrollment processes. This empowers them to make informed choices that support their well-being and financial security.
  • Improves satisfaction and employee engagement: Knowing and appreciating their benefits package can increase employee satisfaction and engagement. When employees feel their needs are considered and benefits align with their priorities, they are more likely to feel valued and invested in their work.
  • Reduces stress and confusion: Ambiguous or insufficient internal communication can lead to confusion, frustration, and stress for employees. Effective internal communication alleviates these concerns by providing clear information and addressing questions promptly.
  • Improved decision-making: Informed employees can make better decisions regarding their healthcare, finances, and overall well-being when they understand their benefits.

Importance of Benefits for Employers

  • Reduces costs and improves ROI: Effective communication can reduce administrative costs associated with answering employee questions and clarifying misconceptions. Clear information can also encourage employees to utilize benefits effectively, ultimately maximizing the return on investment (ROI) of the benefits program.
  • Increased employee retention: Satisfied and engaged employees who feel they understand their benefits are more likely to remain with the company, reducing costly turnover rates.
  • Enhanced employer brand: Strong communication showcases your commitment to employee well-being and can attract and retain top talent in a competitive market.
  • Improved compliance: Effective communication ensures employees are aware of deadlines, eligibility requirements, and changes in plans, minimizing compliance risks for the employer.
importance of effective benefits communication

Best Practices to Effectively Communicate Employee Benefits

  • Set clear business goals 
  • Tailor employee benefits to meet your employees’ needs
  • Use multiple channels and formats for effective internal communication
  • Ensure clear, consistent messaging that supports your brand
  • Get employee feedback for ongoing insight

Challenges in Communicating Benefits to Employees

The process of communicating employee benefits can be complex and challenging for several reasons. Let’s look at some of these issues and explore possible solutions.

Complexity of Benefits

The innate complexity of any benefits plan design can create substantial barriers to communication. Employees need to understand what the benefits offer, and often, the terminology used makes it difficult.

Health care options, different types of savings plans, variations in personal insurance policies, and a myriad of wellness benefits, all contribute to this complexity. To help break this down, HR professionals and internal communication professionals must create simplified benefits booklets or presentations that explain each part of the benefits package in a clear, easy-to-understand manner.

Jargon and Terminology

In the world of employee benefits, there’s a significant amount of professional jargon and specific terminology. Although these terms might be familiar to HR professionals, they might be daunting and unclear to the average employee. Therefore, eliminating or thoroughly explaining this jargon when communicating employee benefits can significantly enhance comprehension and engagement.

Information Overload

Employees may feel overwhelmed by the volume of information during open enrollment. To avoid information overload, HR professionals need to craft a strategic benefits communication plan. This includes a benefits education campaign to gradually introduce benefits offerings, preferably around the year and not just during onboarding. Understanding the need for this kind of strategy will mitigate confusion and should ease employees into understanding and leveraging benefits.

Different Communication Preferences

Communication preferences can vary significantly across the employee base. Some employees might prefer a detailed benefits booklet, while others might prefer interactive online forums or in-person meetings. HR departments must utilize various communication channels to ensure effective and efficient reach.

That’s why it’s so important to have a channel framework to provide a strategic roadmap for effectively and consistently informing and engaging employees within an organization. This might include traditional channels like emails, company intranets, and printed newsletters, alongside modern, interactive channels like internal social media platforms, mobile apps, and targeted video messages. 

Engaging Remote or Dispersed Workforces

In the modern era of work we face today, engaging remote or dispersed workforces poses a significant challenge. HR professionals must apply technology and inventive tactics to effectively communicate employee benefits to all, irrespective of their physical location in the world.

Technology offers a plethora of tools to combat the physical distance in dispersed workforces. However, it’s important to remember that simply implementing these tools isn’t enough. 

Effective communication requires strategic planning and an understanding of how employees prefer to receive information. Consider leveraging interactive platforms for virtual town halls, Q&A sessions, and benefit-specific webinars. Additionally, utilize multimedia resources like explainer videos and bite-sized infographics to cater to diverse learning styles and attention spans. Any which way, regular, two-way communication is key. 

Encourage feedback through surveys, polls, and dedicated communication channels to address concerns and foster a sense of connection. By tailoring your approach to the specific needs and preferences of your remote workforce, you can ensure they feel informed, engaged, and valued, maximizing the effectiveness of your employee benefits communication.

7 Strategies for More Effective Benefits Communication

Although challenges exist, they are not insurmountable. Kim Buckey, vice president of client services at Optavise, advises in an article on the SHRM website that the best practice for organizations is to follow a detailed benefits communication strategy to address total rewards in 2024. 

“Having a formal benefits strategy in place can help keep employers focus on addressing employee needs and company-specific areas of cost increases, while reducing the temptation to explore the ‘solution du jour’ or the latest buzzy benefits offerings.”

Kim Buckey

The author of the article, Kathryn Mayer, compensation and benefits editor of SHRM, highlights seven trends to watch in benefits and compensation in 2024. These are:

  1. Drug coverage decisions relating to treating type 2 diabetes
  2. More financial health offerings
  3. Pay increases that will either meet or exceed inflation
  4. A focus on mental health
  5. Control of healthcare costs
  6. Increased pay transparency
  7. The chance that pensions may make a comeback

“Amid record safety hikes, the explosion of GLP-1 drugs, and the end of pandemic emergencies, 2023 was a big year in total rewards. But don’t expect things to slow down in the benefits and compensation world in 2024, industry experts said.”

Kathryn Mayer

Coincidentally, we have seven suggested strategies to improve corporate benefits communications. Here they are: 

#1 Use Clear and Consistent Messaging

Avoid confusion by conveying clear and consistent messages about benefits programs. Ensure all employee segments have access to the same information and maintain a constant update frequency to keep employees informed throughout the year.

#2 Utilize Multiple Communication Channels

Recognize and respect the benefits of different communication channels. These channels include social media, informative webinars, email newsletters, in-person meetings, and a whole lot more. Always remember that employing a multi-channel approach ensures extensive reach.

#3 Tailor Communication to Diverse Employee Demographics

Different demographics will have divergent interests in terms of benefits. Proper segmentation of workforce demographics can help customize communication to meet different needs, increasing overall engagement.

In the Compensation, Benefits, and Total Rewards: A Bird’s-Eye (Re)View paper, authors Ingrid Smithey Fulmer and Junting Li suggest that “customized or individualized total rewards offerings may help organizations address heterogeneity in employee needs and preferences, thereby optimizing incentive effects across a diverse workforce and modulating sorting.” 

#4 Encourage Feedback and Engagement

Encouraging employees to provide feedback fosters a two-way communication lane. This allows HR professionals to receive useful insights and make suitable adjustments to benefits communication efforts.

#5 Engage Leadership Support

Support from organizational leaders can significantly boost the effectiveness of benefits communication. When leaders advocate for benefits programs, it usually promotes trust and aids employees’ understanding of their value.

#6 Reaching Deskless Employees

It is important to pay special attention to deskless or remote employees who may have different access to information than office-based workers. Tailor strategies to ensure remote workers remain well-informed.

#7 Measure and Improve Benefits Communication

Measure the effectiveness of benefits communication strategies and make necessary improvements. This might include surveys to gauge employees’ understanding and satisfaction, monitoring email open rates, and tracking webinar or workshop attendance.

strategies for effective benefits communication

How Can Cerkl Broadcast Help You Improve Employee Benefits Communication Challenges?

Cerkl’s employee benefits solutions offer tailored communication strategies to streamline benefits communication and enhance the overall employee experience. These are all available via the Cerkl Broadcast platform and they extend from personalized communications to engagement analytics. 

Features and functionalities the Broadcast platform offers can address common employee benefits communication challenges, making it a valuable tool for companies looking to improve their efforts in this area. 

For example, you can personalize your communication approach by targeting specific employee groups based on demographics, job roles, interests, or enrollment choices. This ensures employees receive information about benefits that are actually relevant to them. It also enables you to use dynamic content to display specific benefit plans, options, and deadlines relevant to each employee, reducing information overload and confusion.

Because Broadcast offers a centralized information hub, you can create a single, searchable repository for all benefits information, documents, and resources. Its mobile-friendly platform also ensures that employees can access benefits information on the go, using their preferred devices. And, because we know how important real-time information is, you can update it instantly whenever benefit plans or offerings change.

When it comes to analytics, you can track engagement, identify knowledge gaps, and get the information you need to measure your ROI.

Cerkl Broadcast delivers a comprehensive solution to tackle benefits and communications challenges with ease. Learn more at Cerkl’s Employee Benefits Solutions.

What’s Next?

Want to know more? Then please download our white paper on The Importance of Communication. Once you’ve had a chance to read it, we’d love to connect with you and help you improve your employee benefits communication program. 

FAQ

How do you effectively communicate employee benefits?

Go multi-channel and use a mix of traditional (email, print) and modern (social media, mobile apps) options. Tailor messages to reach your diverse workforce effectively.

Why is communication about benefits important?

Clear communication about benefits is crucial for both employers and employees. It empowers employees to utilize their benefits optimally, fostering well-being and financial security. For employers, it reduces costs, boosts engagement, and attracts top talent, leading to a more successful and stable workforce.

How do you inform an employee of benefits?

Provide a comprehensive overview of the benefits package and use targeted communication and engagement. Include various channels like a digital portal, printed guides, and personalized welcome packets with clear explanations and eligibility details. Also utilize multi-channel communication (email, webinars, workshops) tailored to diverse needs, encouraging interaction through Q&A sessions, and feedback avenues.

Why is it important to communicate employee benefits?

Clear communication empowers employees to use benefits fully. This improves well-being and reduces costs for employers. Also, engaged employees who understand their benefits stay longer, while strong communication showcases your commitment, attracting top talent.

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