Employee Education is the Key to Unlocking Your Benefits Plan

“Inform, Educate, and Empower your employees to make the best benefits decisions for themselves and their families.”

The above sentence is our mission statement here at The Olson Group. We believe that the more information and education employees get, the more empowered they are. They say that knowledge is power, and this sentiment holds true for employee benefits.

A study by Unum found a strong connection between the quality of the benefits education that employees receive and their perception of the employee benefits package quality.

Education is the key. So, if you pour large amounts of time and money into your employee benefits package, but skimp on benefits education, you may be wasting valuable resources.

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Not only that, but you may also be depreciating the value of your employee benefits for your staff. According to an Employee Benefits Research Institute study, one out of every five workers regrets the health care choices they make.

This statistic means that at any one point, 20 percent of your workforce is dissatisfied with their health care benefits. Because health care is such an important part of your overall employee benefits, your business may feel pressure to change your benefits offerings.

Still, a total benefits overhaul may not be necessary. Rather than changing your actual benefits offerings, a dedication to employee education may bolster the appreciation of, and engagement in, your employee benefits.

When deciding how to improve your employee education, there are two components your business needs to address. These components are, what questions your employees are asking, and what strategies you’re using to educate them.


What Are They Asking

To understand how your current benefits education could be improved, you have to go straight to the source; your employees. The best way to present your employees with benefits they want is to ask them.

Here are seven questions you should be answering for your employees:


1. When can I enroll?

Make sure that all of your employees know exactly when your company’s open enrollment ends and begins. Similarly, your organization should educate all employees on what a qualifying life event is, and when these life events trigger a special enrollment date.


2. How do my health insurance options differ?

Every employee needs to know what their different health insurance options are, and how each plan differs from the other. There are a plethora of ways health insurance plans can vary, and which option is right for your staff depends on each person’s situation.

For example, high deductible health plans might be better for a single employee, then an employee with a family. Teach employees their choices for health care coverage, and how each option differs, and they will be less likely to regret their decisions.


3. What are the differences between an HSA, HRA, and FSA?

Just like health insurance, there are real variations between each of these savings accounts. Each account has pros and cons, and again, as with health insurance, which choice is right for you depends entirely on each person’s position. And, it is the job of your HR department, management team or benefits consultant to make sure your employees know the pros and cons of each account type.


4. What voluntary benefits are there? Do I need them?

Last year voluntary benefits sales rose seven percent. Still, voluntary benefits are often misunderstood and misrepresented. In fact, only 60 percent of employees agree that their company’s benefits communications effectively educated them.

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Voluntary benefits are valuable products that can fill any gaps in your firm’s health insurance. Your organization is responsible for teaching your staff what all of their voluntary options are, and how they fit in with other employee benefits.


Learn more about 12 popular voluntary employee benefits


5. What happens to my benefits when I leave the company?

Every employee wants to know what will happen to their benefits if for some reason they leave the organization. Which benefits are portable, if any? When does coverage stop? Is the employee eligible for COBRA?

Be sure to provide answers for all of these questions for your employees. This will eliminate confusion for your staff, and could illustrate additional value.


6. What are the costs?

Cost is (almost always), and will be, the number one employee benefits factor for your employees. Fee transparency is vital for both retirement and health benefits. Always be upfront and honest with your employees, regarding the cost of their employee benefits.


7. How much is my employer contributing?

It’s crucial that your employees understand how much your organization contributes to their overall benefits plan. In fact, when your employees can see how much you’re helping them, it reinforces just how valuable your benefits plan is.


Strategies for Education

There are six critical educational strategies your business should be using to maximize the impact of its employee benefits.


1. Provide financial advisors

Financial wellness is essential to an individual’s wellness as a whole. A study by Purchasing Power found that 80 percent of employees are under financial stress. This stress, in turn, costs businesses an average of $300 billion a year.

Financial advisors have the knowledge and experience necessary to guide lost employees through financial confusion. Meeting with a financial advisor, even once a year, allows your staff to shape their financial wellness.


2. Mobile onboarding/enrollment

People are using mobile devices now, more than ever before. Global mobile traffic now accounts for over 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 can now use mobile technology for benefits enrollment, and employee onboarding.

Mobile technology lets your employees access their benefits plan, and review benefits 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.


3. Detail and outline voluntary options

Voluntary employee benefits are crucial in filling the gaps in health insurance and protecting your employees and their beneficiaries. Also, these voluntary benefits improve recruiting and retention, improve your employee’s well-being. Make sure that your employees understand what each voluntary option is, and how they can aid your workers.


4. Use multiple methods of communication

Forms of communication for employee education are like Lays Potato Chips. You can’t have just one. Email, company intranet, face-to-face meetings, and even social media can and should be, utilized to communicate with your employees. The more points of contact you use, the more likely your employees are to see and comprehend the information they need.

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5. Ask questions, and make it a two-way conversation

Your HR department or benefits consultant has to ask some questions, not merely answer them. Different people require different benefits, and it’s your job as an organization to make sure all of your staff’s needs are met. And, the only way to meet these needs, is to know what exactly they are.


6. Invest in education

One of the more obvious, yet vital strategies your company can use is to invest in employee education. Your firm needs to spend a proper amount of time, money, and focus on educating employees on their benefits.

Marketing materials, benefits enrollment meetings, and time with retirement advisors can all be costly in terms of both time and money. Still, your business has to be comfortable investing this money if it wants a maximum return from its employee benefits plan.


The Wrap

Through education, you inform and empower your employees. This empowerment allows your employees to choose the benefits that best fit their situations. Consequently, this will increase the satisfaction your employees get from their benefits.

So, if you want to inform and empower your employees, you should begin with education.