When it comes to benefits utilization and leveraging benefits as an attraction and retention tool, effective communication is essential. For the analytic-driven benefit professional, communication can often be a pain point. While health care and retirement benefits information is often easily accessible for all participants, so many benefit professionals (79%) continue to report that participants do not read the materials provided, according to the International Foundation Trends in Benefit Open Enrollment and Communication survey results.
Benefit professionals grade participant understanding of benefits around a “C” for health and retirement benefits (52% and 48% respectively), and most participants have a “medium” level of understanding of the total benefits available to them.
How do organizations handle their benefit communications? Most organizations (64%) rely on their own staff to handle benefit communications. (Many of those surveyed (59%) indicated they have staff dedicated to communications.) About a third of organizations (31%) partner with an external resource to coordinate the communications.
When getting help from an external resource, about 35% of organizations rely on vendors, including third-party administrators or consultants. A small amount (5%) turns to attorneys. For those organizations that have internal resources, about 85% rely on either their HR office or in-house legal counsel.
Multiemployer plans have slightly different communication partners to choose from: 48% turn to the fund office, including in-house legal counsel, and 21% look to the unions to help communicate benefits.
As a communications pro, I’m always eager to learn how other organizations handle their communications and how communications professionals fit in the organizational structure. Taking the complex plan parameters and explaining them to participants in terms they understand—often using each individual’s unique circumstances—is an art. And hopefully it is a rewarding one, as participants can effectively utilize these quality-of-life enhancing benefits.
Learn More About Communicating Benefits
The Trends in Benefit Open Enrollment and Communication: 2020 Survey Report discusses standard practices for year-round benefit communication, communication related specifically to open enrollment and how organizations are adjusting their communication efforts due to the COVID-19 pandemic. International Foundation members can download the full report at www.ifebp.org/communicatingbenefits.
Stacy Van Alstyne
Communications Director at the International Foundation
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