Benefit programs can be confusing for many employees, but they are a key factor in recruiting and retaining employees. Research shows only 19.3 percent of employees report a “somewhat high” or “very high” understanding of their benefits, while other research indicates employee attitudes toward benefits programs correlates with commitment and engagement.
Developing an effective benefits communications strategy can create a competitive advantage for attracting and retaining employees, but it’s easier said than done. It’s often challenging getting employees to read internal communications about benefits programs and filling out the correct forms.
Although benefits communications is difficult, developing the right programs is worth it. According to SHRM’s 2018 Employee Benefits Survey, “How benefits are communicated to talent may be the difference in whether a program is successful in impacting recruitment and retention, has no effect, or is even detrimental.” In a candidate-driven job market, companies need to strategically design and effectively promote their competitive benefits packages.
Why employee engagement matters during open enrollment
If you help write benefits copy for your company, you’re probably familiar with open enrollment, a window of time when employees can add, drop or make changes to their coverage. For calendar-year plans that start on January 1, open enrollment usually begins in November.
When you reflect on previous open enrollment communications strategies, do you know which strategies worked and which ones didn’t? If you didn’t record what worked and what didn’t, it can be difficult to make the improvements necessary to increase employee engagement and participation. Worse yet, given that many benefits programs remain the same year to year, you may arbitrarily deploy the same strategies and send the same messages each year, even if they’re not particularly successful.
Since benefits work to retain top talent, gathering open enrollment engagement data is critical. This engagement data can help your team better meet employee needs. For example, when your HR and communications departments work together to segment employee audiences and explain healthcare options and retirement programs in an easy-to-understand way, more employees identify the plan that meets their needs.
Since 78 percent of employees say employer-provided health insurance impacts their choice to stay at their current job, helping employees understand their health plan options can positively impact retention. In addition to influencing retention, when you engage employees with more effective benefits communications, you accomplish some important objectives:
Minimize the number of employees who miss open enrollment
Simplify the benefits selection process and help prevent employees from feeling overwhelmed
Move beyond enrollment logistics to strengthen comprehension and influence attitudes
Prevent top talent from being lured away by competitors with flashy benefits – benefits that you might actually offer to some degree but fail to communicate
To increase employee participation, enrollment and engagement, you have to communicate. You can use communication measurement data to inform what you need to communicate and how often. Here are four key ways to measure employee engagement during open enrollment:
Measure engagement: Your data-informed strategy depends on it
Employers spend significant time and money to make sure employees have the best benefits, because they want their employees to be happy and healthy. During open enrollment season – and throughout the year – it’s crucial to communicate with employees and measure engagement. By measuring employee engagement, you can understand what drives participation and make better data-informed decisions about benefits communications.