The importance of communicating benefits effectively to employees is a long-established and core pillar of any reward strategy. Why invest heavily in providing great benefits if you do not tell your employees about them and, more importantly, how they can get the most from the benefits they have?
Research conducted by Ellipse in August 2017, the Employee benefits research report, presents a mixed picture about how effective employers are with benefits communication. While 32% of employers speak to their staff at least once a month about their benefits, an effective and timely frequency of communication, 28% only communicate with their staff once a year and 7% said they never communicate.
Employers have a role to play in encouraging greater financial protection
The employer has the potential to play a vital role in encouraging employees to maintain adequate financial protection, just as they have done with retirement savings through auto-enrolment.
Employers should not underestimate how valued these benefits are. The same research showed that after a pension, health insurance and then life insurance are the most valued employee benefits.
Communication can also help employees to better understand the value of less familiar benefits, such as income protection insurance for example.
Personalisation is the key to engagement
Providing employees with choice is the key to improved engagement and can form the basis on which to communicate. Static communications explaining what the cover is and how it works should not be overlooked, but prompting employees to review their own cover and adapt it to their needs is likely to be more effective.
Flexible benefits plans are the best place to do this, but even there we find most communications about financial protection are, at best, generic. Employees of different ages, working in different industries, will have different needs and preferences for benefits at different times. Indeed, our research shows that the benefits employees value most differs significantly by industry. These factors should be considered in order to effectively engage employees.
Promoting certain benefits at specific times of the year, for example, or promoting certain benefits over others to particular segments of the workforce, based on the nature of their work, their age or family circumstances, will all help to improve engagement. Lifestyle events could be more proactive, with specific communications tailored to the individual employee prompting them to consider their life cover after the birth of their first child, or purchase of a first home, for example.
Should benefits managers think like marketing managers?
Among large employers, our research shows that email and and an organisation’s intranet are the most common channels used to communicate benefits, while smaller employers rely on verbal briefings. These choices appear to be driven by what is convenient for the employer, rather than what is most effective to reach employees. A marketing mentality can be useful here. Rather than expecting employees to want to read about their benefits, persuade them to read, watch or hear about their benefits. Using multiple channels which are appropriate and relevant to the demographic of the workforce is also advised because it is inevitable that some methods will connect better with certain employees than others. Analytics can then help to show which techniques are more effective and why.
These techniques are relevant to all benefits, but especially financial protection, an important but not often easily understood set of benefits. New product innovations in this market will be much more effective if combined with better employee engagement driven by thoughtful, novel and effective communications.
Chris Morgan is chief marketing officer at Ellipse