“An investment in knowledge pays the best interest.” – Benjamin Franklin
Education is a vital, if oft-overlooked, portion of any outstanding employee benefits package. Employers may not understand its importance, but education can make a world of difference in the engagement in and effectiveness of, your employee benefits plan.
Per BenefitsPro, many large employers report year-long engagement rates among employees and their benefits plan to be less than 10 percent. One of the biggest reasons for this lack of engagement is that employees are having a hard time understanding how their benefits work.
In 2017, only 52 percent of employees claimed to understand their health benefits. In other words, your employees aren’t educated enough about their benefits plan. This lack of education pushes your staff to avoid taking full advantage of their benefits.
To get the best bang for your benefits buck, you need to educate your employees. This article will detail the effects of benefits education on both employees and employers. Additionally, we’ll tell you how education can boost employee engagement and the steps you can take to build a benefits education program of your own.
Effects of Benefits Education on Employees
Poor benefits engagement can have a significant adverse impact on your employees. Luckily, education helps your employees by assisting them to understand their benefits better, which allows employees to engage in their benefits and use them more efficiently. Plus, as employees are educated, and better comprehend their benefits better, they’ll begin to engage with their benefits plan more often.
Similarly, education can help team members understand the cost of their benefits. Once employees understand the costs of their plans, they can become smarter healthcare consumers. According to a study by HealthMine, 70 percent of healthcare consumers don’t do any type of price shopping.
And, 25 percent of these consumers say they don’t price shop because they either don’t know how or find it too difficult or time-consuming. But benefits education can demonstrate the importance of price comparison shopping for healthcare and remove some of these anxieties surrounding healthcare that keep members from maximizing the effectiveness of their benefits.
Also, the better your company-wide benefits engagement, the healthier your employees tend to be. Per BenefitsPro, organizations with high benefits enrollment are shown to have healthier employees.
Effects of Benefits Education on Employers
As previously mentioned, the more engaged your employees are in their benefits, the healthier these individuals are. The healthier your employees are, the more engaged and productive they are, which has a significant impact on the success of your company. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, lost productivity costs U.S. businesses as much as $225.8 billion annually.
Plus, when your staff becomes healthier, your firm pays less in healthcare coverage for employees. And, per Zanebenefits, employers now pay an average of $5,179 annually for single employee health coverage and $12,591 for family coverage. These costs, when multiplied by your eligible employees, can become exorbitant.
Poor benefits engagement can also lead to increased financial stress on your staff’s behalf. According to the Financial Fitness Group, over 80 percent of employees have been affected by financial stress. And this financial stress costs U.S. firms close to $300 billion a year in unscheduled absenteeism, reduced employee productivity and higher employee turnover.
A significant factor in financial stress in this country is healthcare. Today, Americans spend more money on healthcare than any other developed country. And, per a report from the Kauffman Family Foundation, more than a quarter of Americans say someone in their household is struggling to pay medical debt.
As you educate your employees about their benefits, they become more engaged with their plans and can become better healthcare consumers. The better your staff understands their benefits program, and engages with the healthcare system, the less likely they are to incur unnecessary, or unreasonable medical expenses.
How Education Can Improve Employee Engagement
Research by Unum has demonstrated the importance of education on your employees’ engagement with their benefits plan. According to the study, there’s a strong, positive connection between the quality of benefits education an employee receives and their perception of their employee benefits package.
Not only do these employees value their benefits plan more, but they also have a more positive perception of their workplace as a whole. Unum’s research also detailed employees who believe their benefits were effectively communicated are more likely to show higher levels of engagement, morale, and loyalty.
Steps to Build a Benefits Education Program
1. Mobile Onboarding/Enrollment
People are using mobile devices now, more than ever before. Global mobile traffic now accounts for 52 percent of all Internet traffic. In the U.S. over 70 percent of all U.S. Internet traffic was through a mobile device. Your company should use this mobile technology for benefits enrollment, and employee onboarding.
Mobile technology lets your employees access their benefits program, and review plan information on their time. So, if you want your workers to engage with their employee benefits, it’s vital you utilize benefits enrollment technology in your workplace.
2. Detail and Outline Voluntary Options
Voluntary employee benefits are crucial in filling potential gaps in health insurance and protecting your employees and their beneficiaries. Also, these voluntary benefits improve recruiting and retention and can enhance your employee’s well-being. Make sure your employees understand what each voluntary option is, and how they can aid your workers and their families.
3. Use Multiple Methods of Communication
Forms of communication for benefits education are like Lays potato chips. You can’t have just one. Leverage different forms of communication to account for differences in individual learning style or familiarity with healthcare terms and preferences, among your employees.
Email, company intranet, face-to-face meetings, social media, and videos are all different forms of communication your company should consider. The more points of contact your business uses, the more likely your employees are to see and comprehend the information they need. Make sure you use different types of communication for different intended audiences to maximize the effectiveness of your communication.
4. Ask Questions/ Know Your Employees
Your HR department, or benefits consultant, must ask questions not merely answer them. Different employees require different benefits, and it’s your job as an organization to make sure all your staffs’ needs are met. And, the only way to meet these needs, is to know precisely what they are.
To understand your employees’ needs, you must first get to know them. What are their concerns, interests, and demographics? If you want to build a benefits program tailored for your employees, you must first answer these basic questions.
5. Utilize Gamification
Employees often believe benefits are too complex or tedious to understand fully. So, as an employer what do you do to simplify these concepts and get employees to pay attention? One of the best ways to grab employee’s attention while also educating them is through gamification.
Providing your staff with gamified incentives to learn about their benefits options can spark true engagement between your employees and their benefits. Gamifying your benefits communications can attract interest in topics that would otherwise seem to be confusing to engage with.
6. Educate Year-Round
Your company should share benefits communications year-round, not just around the time of open enrollment, to increase benefits engagement. And this year-round education should include both those enrolled in benefits and those who haven’t. Many individuals choose not to enroll in a benefit due to a lack of knowledge surrounding a particular product.
For example, BenefitsPro, 68 percent of those without HSAs said that knowing more would make them more likely to sign up. Communicate educational materials to all your employees, on a year-round basis to boost the positive effects of benefits education.
7. Invest in Education
One of the more obvious, yet vital, strategies your company can use to improve employee education is to invest in your educational plan. Your firm needs to spend a proper amount of time, money, and focus on educating staff on their employee benefits.
Marketing materials, benefits enrollment meetings, and time with employee benefits advisors can all be costly regarding both time and money. Still, your business has to be comfortable investing this money if you want the maximum, positive return from your employee benefits plan.
Staff engagement with their employee benefits is imperative for a thriving and prosperous benefits program. And, through education, you can inform and empower your employees to fully engage in their benefits. Consequently, the more engaged your employees are with their benefits, the more likely they are to be satisfied with both their benefits and employer writ large.