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Employees still struggle with benefits education

By BenefitsPro


By Dan Cook

Do not overlook benefits enrollment time as a key opportunity to increase the engagement of your workers in your corporate mission.

A review of five years of employee benefits enrollment and education queries by Unum underscores the tremendous value employees place on both benefits packages and the enrollment process itself. Those who believe they have received strong support from their employer when making benefits choices are far more engaged at work than those who don't.

Unum's report, Beyond the Usual Benefits, reviewed data from 2008-2012 gathered by a third party researcher that asked employees about their enrollment experiences. One big disconnect exists around benefits education: 81 percent of companies believe it's important for employees to understand their benefits, but only 58 percent do.

Unum began the survey in 2008, just as the recession was about to hit. So many benchmarks set in the first survey have yet to be reached again.

But, the company says, since 2009, employee responses to questions about benefits education have been increasingly positive, with a strong correlation between good education and worker satisfaction, with benefits and the workplace as well.

Employee ratings of benefits packages have been consistent through the last four surveys, with about half of employees rating their packages as excellent to very good, and another 20 percent rating them as fair to poor.

The survey identified one negative trend: While employees continue to express a preference for printed educational materials that they can take with them to review, the number of employees who had access to printed materials dropped by 18 percent since 2008.

Similarly, despite an employee preference for personalized materials, only about 25 percent said their employers offer them personalized materials.

The most common forms of enrollment were online with no assistance (48 percent) followed by a paper form (33 percent). People said they generally preferred these methods but nearly half said they would like help with it. However, only 20 percent reported that such assistance was available to them.

There was a clear correlation between good benefits education and workplace satisfaction: 84 percent of those interviewed said they felt their employer provided good education around benefits, and 81 percent of those expressed high satisfaction with their workplace.

One quarter said they didn't get good benefits education and just 23 percent of those rated their workplace highly. In other words, 77 percent of those who felt they didn’t get a good benefits explanation at work also were unhappy with their employer in general.
Another area for improvement: disability benefits. Only 60 percent of those who were offered such benefits said they received good educational support at work that helped them make better decisions.

In terms of workplace satisfaction, twice as many people (82 percent) who received a strong benefits education reported that their employer valued their work as did those who said they had not received a solid benefits education.

Other key findings from the study:
  • More employers are offering more benefits explanatory tools than in any previous survey.
  • 84 percent of employees agreed that they supported their company's values.
  • 81 percent said they would go the extra mile for their employer.
  • 78 percent believe their employer cares about their well-being.
  • 77 percent said they'd stay with their current employer even if offered the same pay and benefits elsewhere.
  • 83 percent said they'd recommend their workplace to someone else as a good place to work.
  • Slightly over half of employees say voluntary benefits are part of their corporate package.
“Five years of research shows a strong link between benefits education and employee engagement,” said Barbara Nash, Unum’s vice president of corporate research. “Employees clearly value a quality benefits education and the employers who provide it. Developing a strong benefits education program is good for the employer as well as the employee. Third-party research shows that companies with happy and engaged employees perform significantly better than those without.”

Originally published on BenefitsPro.com