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Admin April 19, 2013 3 min read

This year, buy your employees some hot pink shoelaces

Kelley M. Butler, former editor-in-chief at EBN, is one of our new team members! We’re so excited to welcome her and others to the team this week. During her first few days with us, Kelley wrote up this post highlighting why she’s so thrilled to be on the Benz team.

I recently taught my five-year-old daughter to tie her shoes. She’s a natural artist who revels in the visual component of most things in life. So, before we even started tying, we bought new sneakers—they’re a brightly colored confection, with hot pink laces. She’s also our middle child and doesn’t get much one-on-one time with my husband or me, so I made sure our tying practice sessions were just the two of us. Lastly, we practiced using a book that used one red lace, one blue, to drive home the visual of how to tie.

She learned in two days.

Is it because she’s a savant and/or I have an advanced degree in tying shoes? No. It’s because, based on what I know of her as a person, I could tailor the way I needed to communicate with her in a way that was engaging, fun and easy for her to understand.

See where I’m headed with this?

In shoe-tying or in benefits, unless the communication is spot on, your message won’t be received. I know that you know this; while serving as Editor-in-Chief of Employee Benefit News for seven years, you told me over and over, “We’ve tried everything—emails, games, videos, t-shirts—but they just. Don’t. Get it.” You asked me to cover the latest in communications best practices and the success stories of companies that seemed to be breaking through the ether. Now that I’ve transitioned from EBN to my new role as Editorial Director here at Benz Communications, I’m looking forward to being even more hands-on in helping you get your messages across. I know firsthand that you know it’s important, but you may be unsure which media and messages will resonate best and most clearly.

I’m here to help you, and I can’t wait to get started.

And while you might be acutely aware that your communications aren’t exactly scoring home runs in terms of employee understanding, what you might be less aware of are the consequences of ill-received communications efforts. A new white paper from Colonial Life (a Unum subsidiary) spells them out.

The paper, which details the results of a survey conducted earlier this year among some 2,000 adults age 18 and older, reveals that less than a quarter (23%) of workers whose employers offer benefits think their employers communicate those benefits very effectively; 9% say the benefits communications they receive aren’t effective at all.

Not surprisingly, just one-third of employees understand their benefits very well, and 7% don’t understand them at all, Colonial finds.

This lack of understanding hits your organization right on the bottom line because, let’s face it, benefits are not getting any cheaper. According to Kaiser Family Foundation, premiums for employer-sponsored insurance increased 97% between 2002 and 2012—far outpacing wages (33%) and inflation (28%) over the same time period. Never mind what you’ve spent on enrollment packets, brochures, web videos and portals. So, what your employees don’t understand about their benefits—and the poor decisions they make as a result—is costing you. And this year, as full implementation of health care reform looms in the not-so-distant horizon, the stakes of communicating well are higher than ever.

The silver lining, though, is that employees want to understand and know it’s important to make sure that they do. According to the Colonial paper, 73% of employees say it’s very important to understand their workplace benefits, and 95% say receiving regular information updates from their employer about the benefits program is at least somewhat important.

So, don’t give up! All isn’t lost, and your employees aren’t willfully ignoring your communications efforts. They may just need some hot pink shoelaces.

Meet Kelley and lots of our other team members at the HR Executive Health & Benefits Leadership Conference next week!