Finance News & Insights

8 common but costly benefits communication mistakes

Here are a few stats that really drive home just how critical benefits communication is for employers.  

When employees that were offered rich employer benefits received poor communication, just 22% of those workers reported being satisfied with their benefits.

On the other hand, when employers with less-rich benefits communicated those benefits effectively, 76% of workers reported being satisfied with their employers’ benefit offerings.

These stats were part of a recent study by Towers Watson WorkUSA.

At the 2015 Mid-Sized Retirement & Healthcare Plan Management Conference in San Diego, Benefits Strategist Julie Adamik used those surprising stats as an opening to launch into a presentation about effective benefits communication.

What to avoid

During the presentation, Adamik covered some of the most common — and costly — benefits communication mistakes, which included:

1. Holding a boring benefits presentation. There’s a common misconception among workers that anything about benefits is going to be boring. But when HR pros don’t make the effort to make their benefits presentations interesting, the message is bound to be lost on employees.

2. Letting Legal draft all of your benefit communications. When employers let a legal department write all your benefits communications, there’s a very good chance the documents will be littered with legalese that confuses employees, bores them to the point of tuning out or both.

3. Not allotting enough of the budget to the benefits communications. Benefits communication must be more detailed than standard inter-office communications, so it’s likely to take more time to prepare and produce.

4. Relying on workers will bring their benefits info home and discuss it with their family members. Effective benefits communication should always try to include spouses and family members.

5. Assuming employees will simply act on the messages in the benefit communications. It’s up to you to specifically tell staffers what they should do with the benefits info as well as why.

6. Thinking workers will read their open enrollment materials cover to cover on their own time. The more ground you can cover during the actual open enrollment meeting, the better. Of course, enrollment time shouldn’t be the only time benefits info should be addressed. Communication should be a year-long process.

7. Opting for “professional-sounding” language instead of simple “plain-speak” English. Sure, the benefits world is filled with jargon, buzzwords and benefits-related acronyms, but rank-and-file employees’ worlds are not. Keep the message as simple as possible.

8. Covering too much info. It’s only natural to try and cram everything possible into your open enrollment materials, but when there’s just too much being thrown at employees, they suffer from information overload — and retain little (if any) of what was covered.

Remember, continuous education is a proven way to improve employees’ decision-making regarding their benefits, which should be the goal of every communication effort..

 Adapted from “Effective Benefit Communications” by Julie Adamik, CEBS, CCP, CBP, as presented at the 2015 Mid-Sized Retirement & Healthcare Plan Management Conference in San Diego.

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