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Five ways to better communicate employee benefit packages

22 February 2018

Simply offering a great employee benefits package isn’t enough to promote well-being and financial security amongst employees.

Employee benefits packages – particularly those that offer financial security, such as private medical insurance or income protection – are proven to have a positive impact on employee attitudes thus greatly improving staff retention

However, research carried out for benefits provider Unum clearly shows that organisations need to communicate these benefits effectively in order to see a meaningful impact on staff satisfaction and loyalty.1

Cass Business School and Warwick Business School suggest that “offering benefits but not making your staff aware of them is no better than not offering these benefits at all.”2 

Unum’s ‘Workplace Communication Blueprint’ report aims to address this point and suggests employers take five actions to ensure that benefits are not overlooked or become lost in the background.

1. Go back to basics

Directors, owners and HR managers should ask themselves what they want to achieve from the communication of benefits. Answers might include improved engagement, retention and productivity.

They should also survey employees’ awareness, understanding and usage of benefits, as well as their demand for them. Unum suggests that employers measure the success of communications undertaken and the impact this had on the workforce.

It also recommends that employers consider how they can talk about workplace benefits at key stages so they are kept front and centre of their employees’ minds. These conversations could take place during the recruitment process and at inductions; but, also, when staff become home-owners, get married and have children.

2. Know your audience

With a third of workers saying that their employer does not understand what benefits are important to them, it’s vital that employers segment their employees in the same way they would their customers.3

“Can you group your employees by age? How many have dependents? Are they office-based or are they remote workers? What common issues do they have?” asks the report.

By going through this process, employers can start to build up a better picture of their workforce and understand what benefits might be appropriate to them.

3. Think external, act internal

Benefits should be thought of in terms of their impact on employees, and these should be based on genuine consultation.

Unum suggests that companies talk to their employees as they would customers or clients; and that they work with other departments such as HR, communications and marketing, if possible, alongside benefits providers to create the best and most effective messages.

Bear in mind that the level of communication needed for each benefit will differ. Some of the more complex benefits, like a workplace pension, may need more explanation than some others, such as gym membership.

Above all, the report advises, be honest. If it’s not possible to introduce a particular benefit that has been asked for, then explain why not.

4. Don’t just communicate with employees; engage with them

Communication of benefits plays a fundamental role not just in telling people what’s on offer, but in involving the workforce in the process. Even if organisations don’t have the budget for an extravagant benefits offering, giving employees a say in their benefits package is effective in boosting engagement and take-up rates.

The report suggests that businesses take time to ensure that the people delivering the employee benefits message – whether that’s the managing director, human resources, or line managers – are educated about the benefits offering and how each one could benefit employees rather than just providing a long list of product features.

The timing of communication is important here too. It may sound obvious, but making sure that benefits communications don’t coincide with other important communications – organisational changes, for example – is crucial.

5. Create social norms 

Finally, it is important to enable a culture in which talking about, signing up for and measuring benefits is typical behaviour.

Employers should focus on providing education and guidance about benefits and on ensuring that information is easily accessible.

Forms of communication that emphasise education can help boost take-up because, if employees feel that they have had meaningful communication with either a colleague or provider, they will see it as education – even as part of other forms of training – rather than a hard sell.

Measuring increases in benefits take-up or reductions in absenteeism, turnover, productivity or costs will establish return on investment which will help you make decisions on the effectiveness of the benefits offering.

 

Based on Unum’s Workplace Communication Blueprint: How to effectively communicate employee benefits report

 

1,2 Money Talks: Communicating Employee Benefits, Unum 2013
3 Workplace Communication Blueprint: How to effectively communicate employee benefits report, Unum, 2017

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