Maximizing Returns From Benefit Investments

“Respondents (to the survey) gave their companies the lowest marks at the most basic employee interaction level – getting employees to understand the cost and value of their health benefits”

Towers Perrin 2002 Study

One of the biggest challenges facing human resource managers is effective benefit communication. Recruiting and retaining quality employees is much easier if the employees understand the value they receive from the benefit dollars invested. In addition, employees with a better understanding of the total benefits plan will participate more in the plan. Hard copy, high quality benefit statements continue to be the most effective tool for comprehensive benefit communication.

In addition to reviewing the specific benefits of each program, benefit statements also quantify the cost of each benefit paid by the employer. Employee morale and satisfaction with the benefit plan increase substantially when the employee understands the value of the entire compensation package. Nationally, benefit costs represent 42% of payroll, though 80% of covered employees do not understand all of these benefits. Accordingly, recruitment and retention efforts are more successful when employees have a working knowledge of their benefits program.

Benefit statements have been in use for over 20 years in larger accounts. Today’s environment of rapidly escalating medical inflation has given benefit statements another, perhaps more valuable, application: the communication of strategy. Employers facing continuing 10% to 20%+ increases in group medical rates need to develop and communicate their plan for addressing these on-going cost increases. Benefit statements can put both the employer and the employee on the “same side of the table” when addressing the challenges that will face the health insurance industry over the next 2 to 10 years.

How? By devising and communicating a long term strategy, employees get the clear message from their employer, “we care, we have a plan and you are a partner in that plan.”

Packaging and content are of utmost importance when selecting what kind of benefit statement to provide. The benefit statement itself should be crisp, professional and comprehensive. Many HRIS systems generate a one page summary of benefit costs, but these benefit statements are only marginally effective because they stress only the employer’s costs, not the employees’ benefits. These types of statements are little more than a number on a page. In some cases, emphasizing employer costs over employee benefits can breed cynicism amongst employees, the exact opposite of the desired result! Benefit statements are tangible evidence of the intangible value of benefits. By being a quality product itself, the benefit statement connotes the quality and importance of the employee benefits program.
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