Employers Could Improve Benefits Communication

Employees want to understand their benefits better and employers could improve their benefits communications, a survey suggests.

The survey from Colonial Life & Accident Insurance Company found that employees are nearly unanimous (98%) in saying that it is at least somewhat important for them to understand benefits provided to them by their employer. A strong majority (73%) say such knowledge is very important.

Employees also feel strongly about making sure they have enough financial protection for themselves and their families—97% say it is at least somewhat important, and 67% say it is very important. Other factors that employees ranked highly in the survey include:

Having choices to customize the benefits package—95% say it is at least somewhat important, and 59% say it is very important;

Receiving regular information updates from their employer about their benefits program—95% say it is at least somewhat important, and 53% say it is very important; and

Having convenient access to a benefits expert to talk with face to face—90% say it is at least somewhat important, and 46% say it is very important.

“Clearly, employees want access to information and understand the importance of their employer-provided benefits in protecting their families’ financial well-being,” said Steve Bygott, assistant vice president of marketing analysis and programs at Colonial Life. “These survey results don’t surprise us, but they send an important message employers need to hear if they want to get the most out of their costly benefits investment.” 



The survey found that when it comes to the effectiveness of benefits communication from their employer, only 60% of employees say it is fairly or very effective, and 9% say it is not at all effective.

Given this issue, only about one-third (32%) of employees say they are very comfortable making decisions about the benefits available to them at work. Employees with total household income of less than $35,000 report struggling a bit more, with only 25% saying they are very comfortable with benefits decision-making. They are also much more likely than those with an income of $50,000 or more to say they are not at all comfortable–12% compared to 3%, respectively.

However, employers can take several steps to help employees better understand their benefits. The top steps cited in the survey include providing benefits information that employees can access at home or work (38% of employees would find this helpful); providing benefits information that is easier to understand (37%); and providing an opportunity to talk with a benefits expert on company time (34%). Other benefits communication changes employees say would help is receiving benefits information more frequently (31%) and receiving benefits information that is more personalized to their needs (30%).

The survey was conducted online by Harris Interactive on behalf of Colonial Life from February 27 to March 1, among 2,111 adults ages 18 and older. The survey results and other benefits research will be available in a white paper issued in mid-April.