Dreaded Discussions: Benefits

“How much do you weigh?”

As rude as that question is, many employees would prefer to answer that than talk about their workplace benefits, according to a MetLife survey; employees dread benefits open enrollment and many are ill-prepared to make informed decisions about their benefit choices. For employers who devote big budgets to employee benefits in hopes of attracting and retaining great employees, this is terrible news!

If benefits communications and open enrollment efforts stop at telling employees to fill out a bunch of forms prior to a deadline, their effectiveness as an engagement and retention tool is minimal. Benefit plan discussions provide an opportunity for employers to demonstrate the value it places on the relationship it has with employees. As such, in lieu of the typical “fill in the blanks” campaign, take a personal approach that helps employees overcome common barriers such as:

  • Noise: Employees have a lot going on, at work and at home, and contemplating benefits is likely to fall to the bottom of their “To Do” list. Help them schedule time to shut out the noise and focus.
  • Lack of knowledge: Surveys find many employees lack financial acumen; this limits their ability to understand the specific ways that benefits can help them achieve their financial goals. This knowledge deficit can lead to confusion, frustration and embarrassment. Provide employees a safe space to ask questions and learn; invite them to include their significant others (spouse, partners, etc.) who play an important part in their personal decision-making process.
  • Budgeting: Lower paid employees, or those with personal financial challenges like high student loan or medical debts, may be under financial pressure. They may consider benefits are an unaffordable luxury, and not understand how they could ultimately save them money. Consider offering financial coaching and guidance from a qualified professional advisor.

Consider additional systemic action steps to improve employee understanding of benefits:

  • Engage employees in a year-round discussion about the value of benefits, not just once a year during open enrollment. Remind employees how to access and provide specific examples of how to use them or when they can help.
  • Train managers and supervisors to provide accurate and timely guidance on the use of benefits that may support the daily life of an employee. Secure their “buy in” by clarifying the value of benefits as a strategic investment to reduce turnover and attract/ engage/ retain the best workers.
  • Leverage “social validation”; identify appropriate ways that employees can learn from each other’s experiences with benefits, and how they benefitted them. One option is to gather anonymous testimonials and share them with employees during conversations. Another could be a video, carefully crafted to respect employee privacy rights. (The MetLife website metlife.com/openenrollment offers some useful tools.)

For assistance with benefits and organizational effectiveness, contact Employers Council today at LearnMore@EmployersCouncil.org .