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How Better Employee Benefits Communications Can Solve the Usage Gap

Joetta L. Wagner

Joetta L. Wagner

health and financial wellness

improving benefits communications helps close the usage gapMore and more companies are providing wellness programs. There’s a growing disconnect between what’s offered and what’s understood and utilized by employees. This leaves organizations suffering from usage gaps in their employee wellness and benefits programs. How can organizations close usage gaps? By improving the benefits communications strategies that explain offerings to employees.

The Programs Exist, So Why Aren’t Employees Using Them?

The 2019 Bank of America workplace benefits report reveals that 53% of companies currently offer wellness programs. That’s slightly more than double than the 24% it was in 2015. But there are also disconnects between what’s offered and what’s used by those in the workplace.

There are two kinds of “wellness” in an employee’s life. The first is related to health issues, such as health insurance. Programs are designed to boost wellbeing and counteract the effects of stress, burnout and boredom in the workplace. On the health front, there’s a lack of employee awareness and understanding of certain benefits, including healthcare savings and caregiving support. While 88% percent of the nation’s employers offer some form of caregiver benefit, 71% of employees are unaware of what’s available to them and only about a third use the resources their employer provides. 45% of the surveyed employees reported having caregiver responsibilities. 62% of those caregivers reported that their employer is unaware of those commitments.

health and financial wellnessThe second type of wellness is financial wellness, which can cover everything from retirement planning to student-loan repayment. It’s freedom from stress and worries about financial obligations, like paying rent or a mortgage or unexpected expenses. The Bank of America report cites 55% of employees consider their financial wellness good or excellent, but that’s down from 61% in 2018. It also shows a doubling in the number of companies offering financial wellness programs. But, like physical wellness, there’s a gap between what employees use and what employers offer.

Tasked with Improvement

Improving employee benefits communications isn’t as daunting a task as some might think. Explaining what’s available is part of what HR departments need to do with the ultimate goal of engaging and motivating employees to participate in offered programs. But, if an employee doesn’t understand the nature of a topic, then they won’t be able to make educated decisions for themselves or their families.

The tools to improve employee benefits communications are pretty straightforward. When it comes to meetings and announcements, the less-is-more rule can be a good place to start. Luckily, there are simple and effective tools available to HR and benefits managers to help turn the tide on benefit program disuse. You can put together a digital postcard campaign, which assembles video, graphics and messaging, to answer questions about programs. Use explainer videos to acquaint employees with new and ongoing benefits programs. Reach out to employees on social media. Or try including social components, like competitions or challenges, in your programs to boost engagement and close that usage gap.

Overall, good employee communications programs improve everything from involving employees in your organization’s mission to alerting everyone about what benefits programs are available. Companies that lack good employee communications systems are probably wasting resources in many areas. But you may not have realized that among those wasted resources were your underused benefits programs. Or that the waste often stems from poor communication. Improve the former and you’ll have an easier time improving the latter.

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