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Jennifer Benz June 13, 2008 4 min read

Benefits websites: Get to the decision-maker

Why you should have your benefits information on the Internet

I’m still a bit surprised whenever I run into a large company that is keeping all of their benefits information hidden on their intranet. There’s no reason not to have all of that information on the Internet, easily accessible outside the firewall, but many companies are still reluctant to do so. This article outlines the top reasons companies should have their benefits information online and the common excuses that prevent them from pursuing this easy and cost-effective approach.

Get to the decision-maker: Why you should have your benefits information on the Internet

With all the value that an employee benefits web site provides—and the cost-effectiveness of one—it is surprising that all large employers don’t already have one. Many companies have rationalized that having an enrollment system on the Internet (accessible outside the firewall) is sufficient. Or, that having information on the corporate intranet is all that’s needed for employees to access information and make good decisions. It’s not. You need to get the information to the decision-maker—not always your employee—and make sure that the information is easy to use and engaging (something not many enrollment sites provide).

Three reasons to have your employee benefits information online Access. The most important reason for you to have your employee benefits information online is access. And, not just access for employees, but for families—the spouses, domestic partners, parents and sometimes children who help make health care and retirement decisions. If you’re keeping information hidden from this audience on your Intranet, you’re missing an opportunity to engage the individuals who are using your programs—and driving your costs.

Branding. Even if you have a fantastic benefits enrollment platform, it will be limited in terms of branding and likely not provide the information in a way that engages your audience around the specific issues that are relevant to your company. You want your benefits information to be a direct reflection of your employer brand—everything you promise to employees. Usually, the only way to do that is to have complete control over the user experience by developing your own web site.

Recruitment and new hires. Having your benefits package available online for recruits to review and new hires to get familiar with helps attract key talent and makes the new hire orientation process easier. Instead of relying on a 1-page overview or some high-level content, a prospective employee can get “inside” and see first-hand the commitment your company makes to their employees. Every company I’ve worked with has been surprised at the value this provides.

Three excuses you can now ignore 
If you still are trying to find an excuse not to have all of your benefits information online, give up now. Have you been using one of these excuses?

It’s confidential. Benefits information is not proprietary nor does it need to be confidential. We’re talking about copay amounts and investment options, not trade secrets. If there’s some sensitivity around prices, OK, there are easy ways to make that information more protected. But don’t let this excuse keep important information out of your employees’ hands. If you (or your legal group) still insist that your benefits are somehow more unique or need to be more guarded that everyone else’s, I have scary news: they are in the public realm anyway. As soon as you distribute materials to 10,000 employees, you may as well have sent it to the New York Times and Drudge Report. Anyone who wants to will find a way to get your benefits information. Don’t let that prevent you from providing a resource to encourage the people you want to have that information to use it. Because it’s in the public realm anyway, and these sites do not need personal employee data, I do not recommend password protecting benefits sites. In the time it takes to reset or find a password, you’ll lose your audience to YouTube or Facebook. Better to make access as simple and painless as possible.

It’s all provided in a printed book. Unless you have a segment of your employee population that really truly does not use the Internet or have access (they are out there, indeed!), you should ditch that big printed book and replace it with a benefits web site and streamlined print materials to drive people to the site. Your employees will thank you if you provide them with a robust user-friendly site. And, you won’t have to justify your annual print budget and will get props from employees—and your corporate social responsibility group—for being more environmentally conscious.

It’s too expensive. With all the efficient web development technologies out there, it is no longer prohibitively expensive to build custom benefits web sites. And, if you are printing a large benefits booklet, you may be able to pay for the full development of the site in just a year or two of print budgets. A benefits web site will be one of the most valuable investments you make in your communications infrastructure—don’t delay any longer.

Jennifer Benz

Jennifer Benz, SVP Communications Leader, has been on the leading edge of employee benefits for more than 20 years and is an influential voice in the employee benefits industry.