America’s Savings Network

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As an HR Director, employees frequently ask me about our dental insurance provider. This information is provided at the time of hire and during the annual open enrollment. Employees are given materials detailing the plans we offer.

Despite this, when the time comes for employees to use their insurance, they often seem to need to remember the details and become panicked.  In the HR department, we are constantly immersed in benefits, and it is our job to understand the needs of our employees and make the necessary benefits easily accessible to them.

At times, this requires us to act as account managers, finding solutions to employee needs through benefits. On other occasions, we may act more as teachers, helping employees understand their benefits and how and when to use them.

It is essential for employees to utilize and appreciate their benefits, as this is the ultimate goal of the HR department. If they are not doing so, we are not fulfilling our purpose.    

Communicating Employee Perks/ Lifestyle Benefits?

We invest significant money in providing top-quality employee benefits, as they are a key part of employee compensation and can promote engagement. Our goal is for our employees to recognize that working for our company improves their lives and makes them happier.

Research has shown that employees who use these benefits are more likely to stay with their employer. For instance, employees with access to mental health benefits reported being more likely to remain with the employer offering this benefit.

This is particularly important in today’s climate of high rates of retirement, resignation, and job changes. Imagine the impact on employee loyalty and performance if your employees took full advantage of every benefit provided by your organization. 

Education is crucial in fostering employee engagement and loyalty. Unfortunately, experience has shown that most employees will only regularly use their benefits with some encouragement. It is important to provide ongoing reminders and support to ensure they are utilized to their full potential.

Why don’t employees use their benefits?

Finding a single employee benefit that appeals to everyone is challenging, as employees’ needs vary greatly. It is not surprising, then, that employees may utilize only some of their benefits to the same extent. For example, while some of our employees may not be interested in the hotel program we offer, others may find it extremely valuable. Disinterest in certain benefits is a typical and valid reason for employees not to use them. Still, employees must be aware of all the benefits available to them.

According to a study, 76% of employers struggle to help employees understand and appreciate their benefits packages, and 55% admit that they should know more about their benefits than they do. This highlights the importance of effective marketing and communicating employee benefits to ensure they are understood and utilized.

How to promote employee benefits and perks?

Effective promotion of employee benefits and perks requires a diverse approach, as different factors, such as employee preference, the complexity of the benefit, and timing, can influence the effectiveness of education efforts. Using various tools and methods can help ensure that all employees are aware of and understand the benefits offered by the company.

For example, while an internal wiki may help organize and provide detailed information on benefits, it may only reach some employees. Relying on a single medium for communication may result in some employees being well-informed. In contrast, others must be aware of the benefits available to them. It is important to select a range of strategies to communicate benefits to all employees.

Here are my 12 strategies (and why they work)

  1. The offer letter is the first step in introducing new hires to the benefits they will receive as part of their employment with our company. We include a comprehensive list of advantages in the offer letter to highlight the importance of these perks in their overall compensation package.
  2. New hires are provided with a binder containing detailed information about their benefits on their first day, and we also hold a benefits-specific orientation meeting to give them time to learn about their options, ask questions, and complete enrollments. This meeting is usually at least an hour long.
  3. We hold an annual company-wide open enrollment meeting to allow all employees to ask questions and learn more about their benefits. Company leaders and representatives from our benefits providers attend this meeting. It is held even if there are no changes to our insurance plans.
  4. Emails are a commonly used and widely accepted method for promoting benefits. Still, they can sometimes be overlooked amid employees’ many emails for their job duties. To ensure that our emails are noticed and saved for future reference, we label them with clear subject lines and encourage employees to create a folder for HR emails. These emails often include attachments such as our benefits guide, video tutorials, links to carrier websites, and lists of significant phone numbers, which are also made available on our internal wiki and payroll tracking software for easy access. By providing information in various formats, we aim to make it convenient for employees to find and review the benefits information they need.
  5. Our company uses the instant messaging tool Slack for internal communication, including company-wide channels such as “Be Well” and “Savings Stories.” The “Be Well” channel focuses on physical and mental health initiatives. It is an excellent place to promote our health insurance and other benefits. It is also managed by representatives from every department, which helps us gather feedback and communicate effectively. The “Savings Stories” channel encourages employees to share their experiences using our employee discount program, with monthly prize drawings as an incentive. Contests like this can promote usage and increase appreciation for the employee discount program.
  6. Personal, face-to-face communication is often the most effective way to promote benefits and events. At our company, we use walkabouts, where we walk around the office and personally promote upcoming events to build excitement and answer any questions employees may have. This approach has proven effective in getting the word out about our benefits and generating enthusiasm.
  7. Our monthly newsletters include a message from the HR team about the importance of utilizing benefits and an article from our “Be Well” team focusing on health and wellness. These articles often provide tips for improving various aspects of wellness and highlight company benefits that can support these goals.
  8. Our internal wiki or intranet has a section dedicated to benefits, which provides a comprehensive resource for information on all the help we offer. It includes links to more detailed information and instructions as needed. This is the best location for providing a comprehensive guide to the benefits included in our package.
  9. To help ensure that employees are aware of and remember the onsite benefits we offer, we send calendar invitations for events such as 401K consultations, Q&As, financial workshops, etc. These invitations appear on their Outlook calendars, providing a convenient way for them to see reminders about the benefits available.
  10. We use bulletin boards in our break rooms to promote upcoming company events and post informational materials from our benefits providers. This gives employees something to read during break and can spark conversations about benefits between coworkers.
  11. Our yearly health fair is a popular event that is held each summer. It is open to employees and their families. It offers various services such as CPR classes, teeth whitening, DNA allergy testing, vision screenings, chair massages, and blood drives. In the past, this event was held all day. Still, we have recently restructured it as a health month to accommodate a hybrid better (in-office/at-home) work model.

During our most recent health fair, we invited vendors closely connected with our benefits to come onsite for a series of events in August. These events not only provide opportunities for benefits education but also add an element of fun.

For example, our annual 5k event in the fall is popular with employees. It includes a goodie bag sponsored by our providers, which is also a great way to promote wellness initiatives and benefits.

Every quarter, we bring in benefits specialists and representatives from our benefits carriers to meet with employees and address any issues or questions they may have. This helps employees make the most of their benefits.

In addition, we offer onsite services such as dental cleanings, chiropractic care, flu shots, haircuts, and car detailing that employees can utilize with their insurance. Some of these services are even offered for free. We also have a 401(k) planner available to meet with employees individually to review their plans, answer questions, and provide investment advice.

A quick note about healthcare benefits

Effective communication is not only about using a variety of channels but also about the content of the messaging. Simple reminders can be an opportunity to educate and help employees make the most of their benefits. For example, we educate employees about their healthcare benefits, such as visiting an Instacare center instead of the emergency room for specific injuries, to reduce premiums for the entire company.

We also educate employees about their telemedicine services, which can help reduce healthcare costs and save time in the doctor’s office. Consistent education can make a significant difference in how employees utilize their benefits.

Do what works

Ultimately, the communication strategies that work best for one company may be less effective for another. It can be challenging to help employees understand the benefits offered and how to maximize their use. However, trying different approaches and seeing what works best for your specific benefits and employee population is essential.

One helpful tip is to use short surveys throughout the year to gather feedback on what matters to employees and how well your communication efforts are working. These surveys can be easily created using free tools and only take a few minutes to complete.

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