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Attracting and Retaining Great Employees is Hard, but Effective Employee Benefit Communications Can Help

April 23, 2019

By Chris Helin, Vice President, Lovitt & Touché

The current labor market is experiencing an average of 3-4% unemployment. This means getting the right people in the right job is more challenging now than ever — and if you are lucky to have the right people, you definitely don’t want to lose them. According to most experts, your employee benefit program is one of the top two questions a prospective employee will have about your job offer, right after “What’s the salary?”

But, retaining the best employees goes beyond your benefits program alone.  Did you know that the right employee benefit communications can keep your workforce engaged and invested?

Avoid Misunderstandings  

I once had an airplane seatmate who, when they found out I was an Employee Benefits Consultant, felt compelled to tell me about the “horrible employer” — he recently left because of the “horrible medical plan.” I asked him a couple of questions about his experience and soon realized it was not a “horrible medical plan” as he had thought, it was his understanding of an actually above-average medical plan. In essence, my seatmate did not understand why certain protocols were in place for various prescriptions, and he reacted by finding a new employer.

Protocols are a necessary and commonplace aspect of any benefits plan. But, from an employee’s perspective, protocols may be shocking when they have a medical issue and realize they can’t have whatever they want. As my airplane friend turned away to his iPad, I couldn’t help but think how long it would take for him to realize all plans worked like the one he left. He might not have worked for an uncaring corporation, just one with an ill-conceived communications program.

You might have a competitive benefits package, but you need to make sure your employees know how to use it.

Approach Your Benefits Communications Strategically

By creating a comprehensive and forward-thinking Benefits Communication Strategy, your organization might improve its odds of retaining employees and reduce its effort in attracting. Remember, a strategy aims for desired outcomes.  

Here are a few key ideas to help you formulate a strategy.

·        Conduct an employee survey to discover what your employees know — and don't know — about benefits, glossary terms and accessing healthcare.

·        Create a communications campaign to help fill in employees’ knowledge gaps. Ensure your campaign targets different learning styles. Not everyone absorbs information in the same way.

·        Incorporate a variety of media into your campaign such as postcards, emails, texts, wellness contests, etc.

·        Educate employees on how different protocols work within your plan.

·        Encourage employees how to ask questions of their medical providers, pharmacists and technicians.

·        Keep the information in a readily accessible place, like your company’s intranet.

·        Consider adding a vendor who provides healthcare advocacy to help employees understand how to navigate through difficult medical situations.

·        Reassess regularly to keep your plan up-to-date and responsive to your workforce’s most relevant needs.

Incorporate your goals, objectives, benchmarks and timelines, and you’re on your way to an effective, high-quality employee benefits communication strategy. A recent iCIMS study stated that 66% of currently employed people are open to new job opportunities with better salary and benefits. But with direct and appropriate communications to explain how your benefits package works, employees know exactly what they’re missing out on by leaving.

Employee retention is complicated — but a durable communication strategy can support employers in finding the best people for the job and keeping them around for the long-term.