At a fall 2008 conference of the Society for Human Resource Management, Colonial Life asked more than 650 human resources managers how well employees understand their benefits. More than 90 percent of those who responded said that employee understanding and appreciation of the benefits was important to their business. Yet just 21 percent think their employees have a good understanding of those benefits. Almost 5 percent said employees know nothing at all about their benefits.
“These findings are critical for all employers, but we aren’t surprised,” said Tom Gilligan, senior vice present for Colonial Life. “Employers who have implemented a benefits communication plan have been telling us for years how important that has been for the bottom line.”
Among the positive results when employees understand and appreciate their benefits is lower turnover, Gilligan said. “Employees who have been properly educated about their benefits tend to stay on the job longer than those who don’t understand their benefits,” he said.
Colonial Life’s study isn’t the last word on the subject. Similar conclusions were reached by Watson Wyatt and MetLife. In a Watson Wyatt study, employees gave higher marks to employers who provided fewer benefits but explained them well than they did to employers with a richer array of poorly understood benefits. MetLife’s studies on the subject reveal that benefits are second only to salary as the most important reason they stay with a company.
The Colonial Life survey indicates that 90% of respondents believe one-on-one meetings would significantly improve employee understanding of benefits, yet only 58 percent of employers offer that personal touch. Instead, 80 percent use group meetings to explain their benefits, 44 percent have employees enroll online, and 40 percent require employees to self-enroll.