What employers get wrong—and right—about benefits communications
We’re in a sophisticated time in employee benefits: There are more benefits offerings than ever; there are a plethora of digital tools; high personalization is possible; and there are plenty of methods of communicating said benefits.
Yet employers are still falling short in the way they connect with, and inform, employees about their benefits, says Jennifer Benz, senior vice president at consulting firm Segal Benz.
“There are a lot of the fundamental, foundational things that most employers are still not doing well. Some of the basics around communicating year-round, using multiple channels—we still see a lot of organizations struggling with that,” says Benz, who will speak about the topic at HRE’s Health & Benefits Leadership Conference in April in Las Vegas.
It’s important, she says, for employers to communicate in modern ways, communicate frequently and to put infrastructure in place “that’s going to drive full engagement.”
Benz sat down with Human Resource Executive to discuss the latest trends in benefits communication, where HR and benefits leaders are falling short, and what they can do about it.
HRE: Generally speaking, why is benefits communication so key to the employee experience?
Benz: Having really strong communications is so important because everyone’s primary goal right now is engagement. We’re trying to get people to use the programs, to value them, to take action when they need to. And you simply can’t drive engagement without strong communication plans. No one is going to take the actions they need to, and they’re going to miss out on valuable pieces.
HRE: Where does this fall on benefits leaders? Why are they falling short?
Benz: The reality is it’s a big piece of the benefits leaders’ role to think about engagement, and that’s going to require ongoing effort—no matter how sophisticated the tools get.
Most organizations have a smaller benefits team than they did 10 or 15 years ago, but the scope of what they are managing, and the regulatory environment, has increased tenfold in that time. So there’s a disconnect. There’s not a regulation or requirement that says you have to do it, so it falls off the list of a lot of teams because they don’t have the bandwidth.
HRE: Do you think that will change?
Benz: I do think that more and more organizations are making the business case for investing [in communication]. That the next generation of benefits leaders see it as an imperative and an absolutely critical part of their job. And they know that the bar is very, very high of what’s expected of them. I think it’s improved over the last few years, but we have a long way to go.
HRE: With that said, what are the exciting changes in benefits communication you’re seeing?
Benz: The things we are excited about is maximizing all the digital channels and having a really thoughtful approach to how you use all the technology that’s at our fingertips to create a more integrative and holistic approach to connecting everything in the benefits ecosystem. There are exciting new capabilities in terms of personalization and segmenting and being able to predict people’s behaviors and needs, which is interesting and has a lot of promise. There are some really fun and interesting new channels like augmented reality and virtual reality. I don’t think everyone is going to be completely moving all of their benefits communication into augmented reality anytime soon, but I think it’s a neat tool to experiment with.