Originally published on BenefitsPro
In a recent survey of 5,000 U.S. employer-sponsored plan members and 500 HR personnel, researchers found that while employees are generally satisfied with their benefits, people who work in HR are much more fond of the offerings than other employees. Those results sound a little like the reverse of an old cliche. Turns out that at least some of the time, familiarity breeds affection.
There’s a gap between those employees who understand — and take advantage of — their benefits, and those who do not. As an advisor, if you’re noticing that your clients are seeing this in their workplaces, you’re not alone. Improving the way that employees feel about their benefits improves their overall employee experience — and that can lead to better outcomes on performance, retention, and more.
So how can you help your employer clients close the gap between their employees who are merely satisfied with their benefits and those who really love them? Here are four strategies that you can offer your clients to help get them started.
Don’t rely on surveys that only produce quantitative results. Numerical data is important, but advise clients to treat it as a starting point, not the endpoint. They should build surveys to ask thoughtful, specific questions that open up possibilities for further conversations and insights. They may also want to solicit feedback using more open-ended methods, like in-person or online focus groups.
The goal here is to generate ideas. Your clients want to look for people to explain why they feel the way that they do about their benefits. They need to go below the surface: Are they confused? Are you not offering the right benefits? Do they simply not know what is available to them?
To dig deeper requires that they not simply compile answers. They will also need to listen carefully to what people are saying.
This is where real disconnections can emerge. For instance, in one recent survey, 70% of employers believed they provide good access to health and wellness benefits and support, but only 23% of employees agreed. Is that true at your client’s workplace? They can’t know without asking — and listening.
What are employees’ emotions? What do they seem clear about and what do they have trouble with? Advise clients to pay attention to how individuals talk about their benefits as a whole, rather than only decontextualizing the data into discrete observations. What they should try to do is to listen to their employees’ core needs — not just the way that they think about benefits day-to-day.
By now, you should have some sense of how your clients can improve the way that people feel about the benefits that they offer. They should also be able to have some sense of how their employees will react to any new changes.
Of course, not every request is possible or cost-effective. This is where you’ll have to guide clients to make some tricky decisions. Can they change things now or do they have to wait until the next cycle? What are the costs that they anticipate coming along with the changes?
What they are trying to do here is to address those core needs that they identified in the last step. How can they connect their benefits offerings to what their employees really need?
This is not a one-time process. The composition of a workforce changes. What they need changes. The world changes. Staying on top of that means that your efforts will always need to be updated and improved.
A reasonable cycle here is six months. Clients may want to go through this simple process at least twice a year to keep their fingers on the pulse of what employees think and feel about their benefits.
Why it Matters
Benefits matter — and that’s why it’s so important to get them right. According to one recent study, about 60% of people report that benefits and perks are major factors in considering whether to accept a job offer; meanwhile, 80% of employees would choose additional benefits over a pay raise. That’s true of employee retention as well.
By tapping into what employees want and how they feel about their benefits, you’ll not only be in a better position to help your clients provide them with what they are looking for, but you’ll also be better positioned as a stakeholder who can provide clarity and insight into the needs of your client’s workforce, making you a trusted part of the decision-making process.
Paula Kapavik is VP of Service Operations at Selerix.