Study: 63% of Employers Think Their Benefit Communications are Ineffective, 6 in 10 Workers Agree
NEW YORK, NY – In advance of the 2012 benefits enrollment season, The Guardian Life Insurance Company of America (Guardian), one of the nation’s largest mutual life insurers and a leading provider of employee benefits, today released a study that shows a strong relationship still exists between an employee’s benefits enrollment experience and their perceived value of the benefits that their employer offers. 70 percent of employees who were able to receive benefits communications in their preferred channels said they were very confident in their benefits selections versus just 57 percent of those who did not. And, not surprisingly, workers who were able to enroll in their preferred channel were significantly more satisfied with their overall benefits package (70 percent).
Improving the benefits user experience is key
For employers looking to increase benefits satisfaction, one place to start is to evaluate their employees’ current benefits experience and identify ways to improve the process through more effective communications and education. Guardian’s study, Benefits & Behavior: Spotlight on the Benefits of an Employee-Centric Enrollment Experience finds that benefits communications are a point of contention with both employers and employees. Fewer than four in ten employers (37%) say that their benefits communications are very effective in helping employees make the right benefits decisions. And only 34 percent of employees say that the benefits communications they receive are very effective.
“Employee benefits are not the easiest to understand to begin with and as healthcare continues to evolve with employees needing to take a greater role in the decision-making process, the right education and communication is critical,” said Elena Wu, Vice President, Group Marketing and Learning Services at Guardian. “As we gear up for the annual open enrollment period, it is important for employers to realize that the benefits selection process must be top-notch, and communicated effectively, in order to ensure the highest employee satisfaction possible.”
Employees want choices and convenience throughout their benefits experience
The study finds that benefits have more perceived value and satisfaction increases overall when employees are given the right benefits-related information through the channels they prefer. As these preferences vary depending on the employee, single-focused communication efforts, such as only communicating benefits-related information via email, is not likely to have as great an impact as a benefits communication plan that encompasses multiple channels.
During the enrollment period, workers want to receive their benefits communications through multiple channels, which resonates loudly in today’s multimedia world. In fact, almost 20 percent of employees would like to receive benefits communications through six or more options.
When receiving benefits information by email, online, during group sessions in the office and by mail, employees are exposed to messages more often and are more likely to understand their options. This also provides convenience and accessibility so that employees can make their benefits decisions at a time and in a way that best suits their needs and lifestyles.
As workers assume increasing responsibility for benefits decisions, they are gravitating to a self-service approach to enrollment and other benefits transactions, much like they do when booking travel, banking or paying bills online. In fact, 80 percent seek the ease and convenience of being able to sign up for benefits online so they can enroll when and where they choose. And as it turns out, online enrollment is quite a satisfying experience as 9 in 10 workers who are able to enroll online are very satisfied with that experience.
A big payoff for employers
The study shows that when employees have benefits communications delivered in the channels they prefer, and are able to enroll in the channel they prefer, they are more likely to make more informed enrollment decisions and ultimately feel more satisfied with their benefits.
This employee confidence in benefits choices then reflects well on their employers, leading to greater loyalty. Employees who are more confident and satisfied with their benefits selections have a higher perceived value of their company’s benefits. These employees go on to have longer tenure with their current employers and are more likely to say that they plan to stay in their current positions. Although many factors can affect engagement, it is clear that an effort to enhance the employee’s benefits experience overall can play a major role in creating a positive outcome for not just the worker but also their employer.
The full research study can be viewed in its entirety here.
About the Survey
The first summary of information coming from a Guardian 2012 study on the perceived value of employee benefits among today’s working Americans, which will become an annual benchmarking study.
This summary presents the findings from two separate Internet surveys conducted concurrently among 1,667 benefits plan participants (“Employees”) and 1,071 benefits plan sponsors (“Employers”). Plan participant results were conducted among those age 22 or older who work full time for a company with at least five employees. The plan sponsor survey was conducted among employee benefits decision makers, including business executives, business owners, human resources professionals, and financial management professionals. The Center for Strategy Research, a Boston-based, independent, market research firm, conducted the interviews from May-June 2012.
A mutual insurer founded in 1860, The Guardian Life Insurance Company of America and its subsidiaries are committed to protecting individuals, business owners and their employees with life insurance, disability income insurance, dental insurance products, and offer funding vehicles for 401(k) plans, annuities and other financial products. Guardian operates one of the largest dental networks in the United States, and protects more than six million employees and their families at 115,000 companies. The company has approximately 5,000 employees in the United States and a network of over 3,000 financial representatives in more than 80 agencies nationwide.
For more information about Guardian, please visit: www.GuardianLife.com.