Employee benefits communication can, and should, be so much more than "Here is your list of benefits. Pick what you want and let us know."

Have you ever said, "Here is your list of benefits. Pick what you want and let us know." To many employees, this is the extent of the interaction they receive around their workplace benefits. However, employee benefits communication can, and should, be so much more than this.

According to the Human Capital Institute (HCI), employers should actually encourage workers to take advantage of the benefits they are offered. HCI reports that this increases the value proposition and makes the employee relationship more "sticky," increasing worker retention. Instead of merely being the conduit for how employees access insurance and other benefits, HR leaders can become more strategic benefits resources who can help workers get the most value out of the benefits package.

Becoming a Benefits Adviser

Helping employees understand their benefits choices doesn't require a job change or a major shift in responsibilities. It simply means helping workers understand their choices and how to think about them. According to CNBC, nearly eight out of 10 American workers are living paycheck to paycheck. That means they see their employer not just as a source of income and stability, but as the source of other financial support as well.

From health care and life insurance to retirement planning and other options, employers have the opportunity to help workers navigate the challenging waters toward financial maturity. While the population in need of help is quite large, that also indicates the opportunity for having a major impact on these workers is within reach.

Instead of thinking about benefits solely as a "take it or leave it" mentality, look for ways to educate employees about key benefits that can can make a difference in both the short and long term.

Adding Employee Value With Benefits Communications

Part of the value for employees is targeted communication around specific benefits they might find valuable. For instance, offering dependent care options to baby boomers is a missed opportunity for impact. Instead, offering prescription drug benefits or long-term care coverage would be more appealing for that particular audience.

When HR leaders stop and think logically about this, it makes perfect sense. Different parts of the employee population have different needs at different times. Consider these examples targeted to other workplace generations:

Millennials — Student loan repayment programs, financial wellness training/assistance or coaching for first-time health care insurance buyers

Gen Xers — Dependent care coverage, retirement planning assistance or college planning for minor children

While this list isn't all-inclusive, it provides some ideas for how to tailor employee benefits communication practices to different audiences in order to meet their unique needs.

A Holistic View of Benefit Consumption

According to the HCI report, which featured a case study on a fast food restaurant chain, there are specific benefits that work best to target a high-turnover worker population. Those benefits fell into three categories:

1. Personal stability — Paid time off, housing support, transportation support

2. Financial stability — Financial coaching, banking access, matched savings

3. Professional development — Training courses, leadership development, education support

This model can be adapted to fit any employer, but it's important to first understand both what your employees want and what might be useful to them over time.

By creating a more employee-focused approach to benefits, employers can improve the lives of their workers. The first step toward making this a reality is by focusing on employee benefits communications and taking on the role of a benefits adviser to support worker needs on an individual level.

Stay up-to-date on the latest workforce trends and insights for HR leaders: subscribe to our monthly e-newsletter.

Tags: Communication Voluntary Benefits