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Improve Benefits Literacy by Educating Your Employees

4 Mins read

As the labor market becomes more competitive, employee benefits are a crucial component to attract and retain top talent. Based on a survey, 80% of participants expressed a preference for a job with benefits over a higher salary. Another survey backs these results with over 70% of employers saying that retention was their primary goal in improving their benefits packages.  

But offering these benefits is only part of the equation – employees need to understand the value you’re offering. Many employees are uncertain about what they’re really getting, especially with healthcare.

To make matters more complicated, employees are unlikely to take risks with benefits. If they don’t understand what’s on the offer, they go with the safest option – even if it doesn’t satisfy their needs.

As an employer, it’s a waste to offer competitive benefits without helping your employees understand them. Benefits literacy is an important part of employee satisfaction and engagement, not to mention maximizing your resources.

Assess Employee Needs

The first step toward developing a benefits literacy plan is conducting a needs assessment. This will reveal what education employees would benefit from.

For example, Gen Z employees are new to the workforce and have little experience with benefits in the real world. Benefits can be complex, especially with health insurance or wealth protection benefits, and colleges don’t provide a lot of education in this area. If employees don’t know what’s available, they could make snap decisions that don’t serve their future financial wellbeing.

Your needs assessment should start with your existing employees’ demographics, positions, and responsibilities within the company. Think about which employees are in need of more awareness and education about benefits, such as older employees who may not understand newer benefits with customization options. Employees who are planning major life changes like having a child may also benefit from more education.

Establish an Effective Communication Plan

Employees need to understand what benefits you’re offering to take advantage of them. They need education on what options are available, what flexibility or customization they may have, and how they can select the plans that will work best for them.

For some employees, a lack of awareness about benefits is the biggest barrier to getting all they can from your benefits package. An effective communication plan ensures they participate. Different people also respond to different communication methods.

Based on generational research, Gen Z, the digital natives, respond more readily to specific communication preferences. They want online communication channels and expect quick responses to their inquiries. But when it comes to the workplace, these employees are looking for face-to-face communication.

Millennials, the generation between 1981 and 1996, experienced some of the digital age but remember growing up without technology. They’re comfortable with channels like texting or online messaging over phone calls. This same generation avoids face-to-face interactions in the workplace and prefers email or messaging instead.

Gen X, which is the generation born between 1965 and 1980, experienced some digital technology like email, but the newer communication channels didn’t happen until well into adulthood. They prefer email or face-to-face interactions over messaging apps.

Then there’s the baby boomers, which is the generation born between 1946 and 1964. They witnessed the evolution of a lot of technology, including landlines into smartphones, but they’re often comfortable with more tech-savvy communication using online platforms. Still, in the workplace, this generation prefers face-to-face communication.

Most companies have a mix of different generations, so it’s on you to tailor your communication to your diverse audiences. Employees should have the option to address benefits in the manner that’s comfortable for them. It’s also important to remember that these are generalizations based on trends within the generations. It doesn’t mean that everyone will fall into them neatly.

Finally, make sure you strategize your benefits communication plan. Don’t limit communication to open enrollment. Set a timeline for when and how information is shared with employees, and make sure employees know where to go if they have questions about their benefits throughout the year.

Implement Employee Benefits Technology

Benefits technology platforms can be helpful for streamlining benefits enrollment. Employees can use a single benefits portal for information and benefits enrollment, simplifying the entire process into one seamless experience.

Employees should be able to compare different plans, coverage options, carriers, and more. Having all the information in this clear format helps them navigate the complexity of benefits to make more informed decisions.

Use Educational Workshops and Training Seminars

Workshops and training seminars are a great way for employees to learn and feel empowered in taking control of their own benefits education. Along with consistent benefits communication, these tools can be archived to allow employees to seek out information as needed and learn at their own pace.

Going back to the different generations, be sure to include a mix of different education options that help diverse age groups learn in the way that works best for them. Some platforms also offer learning resources, such as virtual one-on-one sessions, that can be helpful.

Encourage Feedback from Employees

While you’re creating benefits literacy solutions, make sure to check in with employees to understand their expectations and concerns. After all, the benefits literacy program is for them, so you want to understand what motivates them, what barriers they encounter, and how you can serve them best.

There are many ways to request feedback. Focus groups are a good option if you have a large company, as you can get a diverse cross-section of your employee base with open discussions. Another option is one-on-one interviews to get honest insights. Employees may feel more comfortable if they’re in a more intimate setting.

You can also use surveys, which allow employees to share information at their leisure. It’s confidential as well, so you can get the same honest feedback as one-on-one interviews without the time commitment. Make sure some of the questions are open-ended to get more elaborate answers.

Incorporate a Results-Driven Approach

As with any strategy, it’s crucial to set goals and establish a way to track them. Otherwise, you won’t know if your plan is working. Start with specific goals within a set timeframe, then monitor your progress to see whether you’re on track to meet them.

Check in with your benefits literacy regularly to make sure that you’re meeting your goals and helping your employees. If you notice that some aspects are more successful than others, develop strategies to improve the areas that are lagging behind.

Assist Your Employees with Benefits Literacy

With a competitive labor market and a new generation entering the workforce, it’s important to have a strong benefits literacy plan in place to set your employees up for success.

Frank Mengert continues to find success by spotting opportunities where others see nothing. As the founder and CEO of ebm, a leading provider of employee benefits solutions. Frank has built the business by bridging the gap between insurance and technology driven solutions for brokers, consultants, carriers, and employers nationwide.

Employee education stock image by fizkes/Shutterstock

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