employee benefits

5 ways you can help employees get the most from their benefits

From employer-sponsored health insurance to retirement savings plans, an attractive benefits package can help you hire the best employees and ensure you retain them for many years to come. This can go a long way toward positioning your company to excel in the marketplace and securing your reputation as a stellar employer.

But as incredible as it may seem, many employees don’t take full advantage of all the benefit options their employer offers.

So, what leads to this lack of participation? It’s likely a result of ineffective communication and education. Take these five steps to get everyone on board.

1. Make sure your new hires are fully informed

Leverage new-employee orientation and the hiring process to educate new team members about benefits. Be sure to provide each new hire with:

  • A detailed, printed overview of available benefits and out-of-pocket costs, if any
  • Detailed instructions on how and when to sign up, including online enrollment if available
  • Easy-to-follow instructions for how to get questions answered, including contact information for:
    • Your internal benefits representatives
    • Outside vendors, such as the insurance provider and investment company

If your company is large enough to offer new-employee orientation, be sure to dedicate a section to benefits and include a question-and-answer session.

2. Communicate early and often about open enrollment

In most companies, employees can change some benefits, especially health insurance, only during an annual open enrollment period. Exceptions are made for qualifying life events, such as the birth or adoption of a child.

Open enrollment is your big chance to showcase your employer-sponsored health insurance. Give employees ample time to read and analyze information by communicating early in the game. Encourage them to discuss options with their families and ask questions.

Because people often forget about annual enrollment or it sneaks up on them, communicate frequently using every method possible:

  • Post notices in community areas, such as breakrooms
  • Email reminders beginning at least a month before and through the entire open enrollment period
  • Send an annual printed brochure with detailed information about benefits, and a flyer with dates as the deadline approaches
  • Mail postcards to employees’ home addresses
  • Provide benefits overview sessions at different times and locations, if necessary
  • Use your company’s intranet and interoffice newsletter, if available, to share information and reminders

In all communication, be sure to include open enrollment dates. Also provide contact information for a representative who can answer questions, as well as a web address for online enrollment, if available.

3. Hold a benefits fair

Open enrollment doesn’t have to be a drudge. If you have the resources, spice it up a bit – while still getting all the details out there. Host a benefits fair. Schedule a conference room for a day and encourage employees to walk in at their leisure to learn more about their benefit options.

Consider offering lunch or snacks. You might also think about providing blood pressure screening (a local hospital may be able to provide this at little to no cost) or a raffle for fitness equipment or dinner at a nice restaurant. If you offer tuition assistance, invite a representative from the local community college to set up a booth.

Information tables can be staffed with subject matter experts, such as investment advisors, insurance professionals or health club representatives. Your HR personnel should be on hand to address any questions.

4. Help employees truly understand their out-of-pocket costs

Some workers may automatically assume they can’t afford benefits. Be sure they have the tools they need to make educated decisions.

In printed materials and other communication, explain the impact of benefits on your employees’ salary. For instance, what costs are the employees responsible for (partial premiums, deductibles, etc.)? When will premiums be deducted from employees’ paychecks? How does a flexible spending account work? What does their short-term disability insurance cover?

Provide links to online calculators, such as those for retirement savings, so that employees can better understand the value of their investments. Additionally, many health insurance providers offer online “cost of care” calculators, which allow your employees to get an estimate of their out-of-pocket costs for certain treatments and prescriptions.

5. Keep the info flowing throughout the year

Communicate constantly about benefits, both those that can be changed only once a year and those that are ongoing, such as tuition reimbursement, health club membership, employee assistance programs (EAP) and disability insurance.

Update employees quarterly through email, intranet and, if applicable, the employee newsletter. To make it fun, post on your intranet or in regular email communications trivia questions related to the benefits you offer. Then award a prize to the first person who submits the right answer. Or theme the communication around special events, such as heart month in February.

Need a little extra assistance making human resources decisions? Find out how a PEO can help. Download our free e-book, HR Outsourcing: A Step-by-Step Guide to Professional Employer Organizations (PEOs).