In an era of easy access to real-time information on a daily basis, employers understand that more frequent benefits communication is expected. But research shows they're struggling to achieve key objectives in this area.

Of the 298 benefits professionals polled by Benz Communications, 78% cited communicating with employees year-round among their biggest challenges, yet just 28.9% are actually doing so.

Also, despite 55.6% of the 2012 Inside Benefits Communication survey respondents believing their benefits communication efforts improved during the past three years, 45.4% still aren't satisfied with their current communications strategy and an additional 28% are ambivalent.

 

Critical time

"This is a critical time for employee benefits, and a time of significant change and opportunity for employers," said Jennifer Benz, the firm's founder and CEO. "We undertook this survey to learn how HR and benefits professionals are communicating benefits in this rapidly changing and high-pressure environment. The results provide insight into what successful HR and benefits teams are doing - and what all organizations can do to get the most value from benefits and their communication efforts to support their employees and their organizations."

Other findings include:

* Employers' top goals include executing a successful annual enrollment (60%), increasing workers' use of preventive care (48%) and increasing employees' 401(k) savings. Fewer than a quarter (24%) report meeting these goals last year and 18.8% aren't sure.

* Less than a quarter (24.2%) are connecting their benefits strategy to their company's bigger business strategy; less than half (46.9%) try.

* More than half (54.6%) do not document their benefits communication strategy. And 41% state they aren't sure if their benefits communication efforts are helping them meet their goals.

* More than two-thirds (68.3%) report budgets of less than $25,000 for benefits communication; 10.1% report budgets between $25,000 and $75,000. The majority of these budgets aren't being spent strategically. For example, two-thirds (66%) report print and postage costs (one-time non-renewable expenses) as consuming most of their budget.

* The majority of respondents (83%) said they're not using social media to communicate about benefits and 67% indicated 2012 would not be the year they give it a try.

"Social media tools - such as blogs, microblogs like Twitter, podcasts and videos, social networks and user forums - are easy-to-use, low-cost tools that improve the effectiveness and efficiency of communication and are perfect for year-round communication - a key to achieving benefits communication goals," said Benz. "They are especially useful during open enrollment."

Overall, the results of the survey reveal that "companies are missing a huge opportunity to improve the success of their benefits programs and use their benefits communications to meet their larger strategic goals," Benz said.

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