Boosting Participants’ Grasp of Benefits Starts With Better Delivery

Nearly half of plan participants do not understand their benefits materials—and most don’t even open or read the information, says the International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans (IFEBP).

Despite strong efforts, only 19% of employers believe their employees have a high level of understanding their benefits, according to the International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans (IFEBP), which notes that a majority of organizations (65%) count it as a high priority to educate their workforce about benefits. Nearly two in five organizations have budgets specifically devoted to benefits communication, and 25% plan to increase those budgets in 2016.

The reason employers say understanding of benefits is so low? Most participants do not open or read the materials, reported 80% of organizations. Nearly a third of companies (31%) said their participants do not perceive value in their benefits.

To bridge the understanding gap, employers are turning to a range of communication platforms to get the word out: 

  • Educational materials printed and mailed to homes (89%);
  • Email (73%);
  • Printed and distributed on site (69%);
  • Internal websites (66%); and
  • External websites (58%).

Fewer than half of organizations use nontraditional communication platforms such as video (29%), social media (23%), texts (10%), robocalls (9%) or games (7%). Most often, organizations communicate about retirement (74%), health care (74%) and wellness/mental health (72%).

To further promote benefits education within their organization, employers are examining different delivery methods for communication materials and finding the highest success rates with:

  • Communicating by life stage, such as parental leave, retirement planning, and so on (81%);  
  • Year-round communication (79%);
  • Leveraging word of mouth by relying on their employees to help spread the word (75%);
  • Communicating in multiple languages (74%); and
  • Simplifying complicated benefits content (72%).  

The top organizational goals for benefits communication are helping participants better understand and use their benefits (89%), getting individuals to understand the value of their benefits (52%) and helping participants make smarter personal health and/or finance decisions (49%).

“Benefits are a vital part of employees’ lives, in and out of the workplace,” says Julie Stich, research director at the IFEBP. “It’s crucial that employees understand both their value and how they work. Employers see the need to simplify complicated benefits content, and to communicate in different languages and to multiple generations.”

Survey responses were received from 341 members. Of the total, 264 or 77% of responses were from U.S. organizations (23% Canadian). Surveys were received from multiemployer benefit plans (42%), single-employers/corporations (35%) and public/governmental plans (23%).

The full survey report is available on IFEBP’s website.