How to communicate the value of your benefits and improve your bottom line

By Sarrena Bennett                 

It should come as no surprise to you: Benefits are important to employees. As confirmation, consider the results of thevalueofbenefits 2009 Job Satisfaction Survey from the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM): In this survey, which was completed by 605 employees from all sizes of organizations (including 34% from small companies), employees rated benefits as the second most important factor influencing their job satisfaction.  Since 2002, they have ranked benefits either No. 1 or No. 2 as the condition affection their job satisfaction.

And make no mistake: Happy (or at least content) employees affect their companies’ bottom lines. Consequently, when you improve the benefits communication process, you stand to gain a competitive edge in recruiting and retaining quality employees who will make your company successful.

Although the vast majority of employers agree (90%) that understanding and appreciating the benefits they provide is important, few (21%) think their employees actually comprehend the extent of the benefits they get, according to a 2008 survey conducted by Colonial Life and SHRM. Furthermore, the same survey showed that nearly 5% of employers think their employees know nothing at all about their benefits!

It stands to reason that if you want employees to appreciate the value of their benefits, you must have a comprehensive communication program—something that is generally done by the benefits provider to your organization.

Your benefits communication program should:

• Identify the benefits you provide. Sounds simple, but do your employees know what benefits you give them? Healthcare is the benefit most everyone thinks of—and its value is considerable. But how about other “hidden” benefits that you may provide? (See sidebar for a list of common benefits that SHRM surveys.)

• Explain the value of each benefit. Every benefit has a value. Your communication program should be comprehensive enough so that any employee in your organization can calculate the value—either in a dollar amount or as a percent of his or her pay—of each benefit provided.

• Provide various methods to teach the value of benefits. Some basic methods to use in your education program include one-on-one meetings with expert consultants, group meetings, and Internet or self-enroll methods. Other ideas to supplement these methods include online resources, printed benefits booklets, printed enrollment guides and interactive multimedia tools.

• Be interactive. People learn in different ways. Some comprehend written messages; others prefer audio-visuals. And most learn best through interactivity. Today’s benefits education involves more than just developing a message and delivering it. It’s about creating employee participation. Using tools such as workbooks and interactive needs analysis helps create true engagement and participation. 

• Be ongoing. Communication experts agree that messages you want people to hear need to be sent repeatedly and consistently. Technology today allows for education to be given 24/7 through online support, where employees can access information to their own personal benefits as well as gather information about benefits in general.

• Be convenient. Your education program should be convenient for employees; they should not feel they are inconveniencing an administrator to get information or to make changes due to marriage, divorce, births, or death. Programs that employ best practices make use of the Internet for convenient communication.

With the right voluntary benefits partner and enrollment strategy, you can implement a strong benefits communication and education program that will help you realize competitive advantages.

sarrenasmallSarrena Bennett, an account executive with Colonial Life & Accident Insurance Company ( is responsible for marketing Colonial Life’s products, programs, and services in Northeast Florida. She can  be contacted at 305-742-1236 or 


Job satisfaction from your employees’ point of view

According to the 2009 Job Satisfaction Survey conducted by the Society for Human Resources Management, the top workplace conditions that affect their job satisfaction are:

• Job security (63%)

• Benefits (60%)

• Pay (57%)

• Opportunities to use skills and abilities (55%)

• Feeling safe at work (54%).

The age of employees, however, dictates what is more important to them. For example, the survey showed that employees who are 35 or younger, put pay at the top of their list, followed by benefits. Those who are 36 to 55, put job security at the top of their job satisfaction list, followed by benefits. And those who are 56 and older, put job security first, followed by the ability to use their skills and abilities. Benefits followed in third place.


Which benefits do you offer?

Do your employees know what benefits they have? Here is a partial list of benefits many companies offer their employees, broken down by categories.

• Health and welfare benefits. These include such things as health coverage, dental, prescription drug coverage, chiropractic care, mental health coverage, accidental death and dismemberment, vision, short-term disability, long-term disability, dependent care accounts, and flexible spending accounts. (This list is not comprehensive.)

• Preventive health and wellness benefits. Some of these are wellness resources and information, on-site vaccinations, wellness programs, CPR/first-aid training, health fairs, smoking cessation, weight loss programs, fitness programs (onsite or membership, and massage therapy at work.

• Compensation and pay programs. Included in these benefits are payroll deductions, life insurance, retirement plans, onsite parking, tuition reimbursement, cell phones, cars, employee referral bonus, incentive or bonus plans, spot bonus programs, individual investment advice, retirement planning services, computer-purchase programs, and matching charitable donations.

• Paid leave benefits. Included are paid vacations and holidays, floating holidays, paid personal leave, family leave, sick leave, and eldercare leave.

• Family-friendly benefits. Some of these include bringing a child to work in an emergency, lactation room, domestic partner benefits, child and/or elder referral care services, subsidized daycare, and adoption assistance.

• Personal services benefits. These include such things as direct deposit, professional memberships, certification fees, cross training, mentoring program, and subsidized cafeteria.

• Housing and relocation benefits. Included are location visitation, temporary housing, and rental assistance, among others.

• Business travel benefits. Among these are frequent flyer miles, per diem for meals, paid long-distance when away from home, and car service to the airport.

• Other benefits. Some of these are office parties, milestone rewards, company picnic, community volunteer programs, discount ticket services, and pets at work.


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