Workplace benefits can only be seen as a perk if employees know about them.

When we surveyed UK employers last year many said the main reason they provide benefits is to reward staff for their efforts. And yet 28% of employers who have invested in providing their staff with a selection of workplace benefits do not take the time to effectively communicate these. Poor communication is a potential waste of money as staff lose track of the benefits they are entitled to. This also leads to poor usage of the extra support services offered alongside many products, as most employees are just not aware.

Generally employees are better informed about the lifestyle benefits they receive from their company. Whether that’s shopping vouchers, discount cards or cash plan benefits. But there’s a gap in knowledge and awareness of financial benefits – arguably the more important part of a benefits package.

Group risk product perceptions

Employers may choose not to promote group life and disability insurance as they perceive they’re boring and employees won’t want to hear about them. However, our research last year shows they’re valued benefits; life insurance was valued by 20% of the UK employees we surveyed, critical illness was 11% and income protection was 9%. By comparison, non-group risk benefits such as childcare vouchers (9%), employee assistance programmes (5%), cycle to work schemes (4%) and financial education and advice (4%) were valued less.

Know your audience – and the products

Different group risk insurance products become important for people at different stages of life. Employers need to target their staff with the right communications about the most relevant product to them, at the right time. Face-to-face meetings or workshops are a good way to discuss and explain group risk products with a number of people at the same time and to answer any questions staff may have. But they should be part of a multi-channel communications plan, including email, intranet and video – as different channels will appeal or resonate with some people more than others. Everyone takes in information in different ways.

Younger employees will need and respond better to different messages about products than older employees. This will result in better engagement and take-up of group risk products. However, in order for this to happen employers need to be up to speed on the products so they can effectively communicate the benefits of having this cover to their staff.

Be clear, concise and consistent

Clear communication covering each group risk product and how it can benefit those who choose it will help employees make decisions about the cover they need to protect themselves and their families, should the worst happen. Employees need to be able to make informed decisions about which benefits to choose in relation to their own financial circumstances, especially when they’re available through a flexible benefits scheme.

Almost half (47%) of the UK employees we surveyed last year said their employer communicated with them via email, this was followed by the company intranet (35%), both of which are easy and quick ways to reach a large audience with relevant information. The least popular way of communication was via workplace social media at 8%, although this could be down to low take-up of this tool in businesses.

The traditional method of hosting a benefits fair to communicate company benefits, although a valuable method, should not be the only communication channel. Not all employees will be available or interested in attending and even if they do go, they may well pass by the financial options and focus on the ‘fun stuff’.

An internal communications strategy using content from Ellipse is a great way to ensure employers are sharing the correct information about group risk products with little effort needed on their part.

A benefits brand

A benefits brand is one way to ensure benefits communications stands out. Having an effective benefits brand enables employers to differentiate their benefits communications from other internal correspondence. Streamlined branding across all communications channels creates a strong message. Whether it’s an email, a message on workplace social media or office posters, the look and feel needs to be consistent in order to reinforce your benefits brand.

In a nutshell

No one wants to think that a serious illness or death could happen to them. Yet if the worst does happen, group life and disability benefits provide a financial lifeline. Employers therefore play a vital role in educating their employees about the benefits available to them, how they can access those benefits and even make choices so benefits are more suited to their needs.

To do so employers need to be clued up on the cover they offer and they need to have a communication and engagement strategy in place to get the most out of their benefits spend. Financial protection is often the most important benefit, so employers need to ensure their employees fully understand what they have available to them.

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