The importance of communicating benefits effectively to employees is a long established and indeed, core pillar of any reward strategy. Why invest heavily in providing great benefits if you don’t tell your employees about them? Or, more importantly, how they can get the most from the benefits they have?

Research we conducted in August presents a mixed picture about how effective employers are with benefits communication. 11% of employers speak to their staff once a week, 23% said they communicate at least once a month about their benefits; an effective and timely frequency of communication. 19% only communicate with their staff once a year and 1% said they communicate less than once a year. These figures have improved since last year’s results when 28% said they only communicate with their staff once a year and 7% said they never communicate.

Communication can also help employees to better understand the value of less familiar benefits, such as income protection insurance.

Employers have a role to play in encouraging greater financial protection

We believe the employer has the potential to play a vital role in encouraging their employees to maintain adequate financial protection. Just as they have done with retirement savings through an existing pension scheme or auto-enrolment. Employers shouldn’t underestimate how valued these benefits are. The same research showed after a pension, private medical insurance (23%) and then life insurance (20%) are the most valued employee benefits.

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. Basic 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 benefit 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. 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 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 provide an opportunity to 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 benefit managers think like marketing managers?

Our research shows email (42%) and company intranet (38%) are the most common channels to communicate benefits by large employers. In smaller companies of less than 10 staff employers rely on their managers verbally updating staff (60%). 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 advisable. It’s 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.

In a nutshell

These techniques are relevant to all benefits, but especially financial protection, an important but often misunderstood set of benefits. We are exploring new ways we can make our products simpler, more flexible and personalised to the individual. However, these new innovations will be much more effective if combined with better employee engagement driven by thoughtful, novel and effective communications.

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