It’s often said that the only constant in life is change. That’s always been true, but in today’s world there’s an additional twist: the accelerating pace of change. Advances in technology, rapidly evolving social norms, and new workforce needs are creating an environment that would have been nearly unrecognizable even 20 years ago. And their impact on the workplace shouldn’t be underestimated. So, how are these changes affecting your employees, and how can you help them navigate?
Communication is the key. You're asking people to be successful within an environment that has become increasingly complicated, and helping them navigate it is more important than ever. That’s especially true for employee benefits. The benefits you offer are more than just a part of your talent retention strategy: The programs are vital to the success of your people. What’s more, they’re an organizational imperative, because they help drive business objectives.
For your programs to have the impact you want, your people must engage with them. If benefits communication isn’t already at the top of your list, it should be. Here are 5 reasons why.
The employee benefits ecosystem has grown bigger and more diverse, beyond just basic medical, dental, and retirement saving plans. In the nonstop battle for talent, employees have multiple choices and buy-up options for their medical and dental plans, voluntary insurance, and retirement savings plans. For many, there’s also a variety of niche benefits to choose from, including student loan programs, child-care benefits, gym memberships, ID theft protection, family support programs, and more.
The point? Benefits are expensive, and plan sponsors need to get a maximum return on investment. That means your people need to use these programs, and use them correctly. That will only happen with effective communication. When your employee benefits communication is successful, your people will understand the programs available to them, appreciate their value, and use them correctly.
Employees face an overwhelming amount of benefits information from a variety of sources. But you’re their trusted source for benefits information. According to the 2019 survey for the Edelman Trust Barometer,1 75% of people worldwide say they trust “my employer” to do what’s right. Your people are looking to you for the information they need to make vital benefits decisions and take actions that are in their best interests. Given the increasing complexity of the benefits ecosystem, they really can’t do it without communication from you.
Millennials (people aged 23 to 38) have surpassed Generation Xers as the largest generational group in the workplace. To engage them successfully, you have to play by their rules. Unlike earlier generations, which considered benefits a given, Millennials’ experiences have been molded in the post-9/11 world. While Boomers and Xers built walls to separate their work and private realms, Millennials tend to integrate their careers into their overall lifestyle. Many are accustomed to flexible or remote work options, a concept many workers over the age of 35 never even consider. Millennials also expect the services they engage to offer them a consumer experience—and that expectation extends to their benefits. To successfully engage them in your programs, you need to be creative and use a variety of media channels to reach them.
What’s next? Generation Z, the group just now graduating college and beginning their careers, could be even more challenging to connect with. As the first generation to grow up entirely online—and having never lived without social media—their online and offline worlds often overlap. And with their preference for avoiding face-to-face interaction, they’ll be a challenge—but essential—to engage.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, about 40% of people ages 55 and older were working or actively looking for work in 2014.2 The Bureau projects that many will continue working, even after they qualify for Social Security retirement benefits. So, although Boomers are no longer the dominant workforce population, they will remain in your employ for the foreseeable future. And as they get older, they’re spending more on health care. Your organization will, too. What’s more, according to a survey by the American Benefits Council,3 nearly half of people surveyed pointed to their employer as their most trusted source of high-quality health care coverage. All of this merely reinforces the need to ensure your employees understand how to use their benefits in the most responsible ways—for themselves and for the continued health of your bottom line.
With Boomers, Xers, Millennials, and Zs sharing office space, one size no longer fits all when it comes to benefits communication. To drive the results you need, target your communications so you reach each generational group in ways that resonate with it.
It’s no secret that health care costs are on the rise—still. On top of that, how health care is delivered and how we pay for it are increasingly complex. When you engage your employees with your communications, you empower them to get the best of what your plan offers. Whether it’s taking advantage of in-network discounts; choosing centers of excellence; or using your plan’s wellness, behavior modification, and utilization management programs, your people can help you see real results—and rein in spiraling costs—by improving their health outcomes. In today’s environment, you need to communicate the how and why of cost management to your employees. When they see it’s in everyone’s best interests, they’re more likely to be on board.
Learn how to create communications that help your people understand and use their benefits effectively by downloading our guide, Driving Benefits Engagement: A Roadmap for Creating a Successful Communications Strategy.
Ettore Toppi, Senior Communications Consultant, creates engaging communications campaigns that ensure employees are informed and connected with their benefits.