Research suggests that a slow but steady decline in employee morale from 2008 levels presents an opportunity to improve employee engagement during the upcoming benefits enrollment season.

More than 28% of the 1,100 employed adults responding to a Harris Interactive poll report that morale has declined since last year. This fourth annual online survey conducted for Unum also found that just 55% of workers would choose to stay with their employer if they were offered the same pay and benefits elsewhere – a 7 point drop since 2008.

Despite modest gains in employment and a more stable work environment, only 52% of the workers surveyed rated their employer as a very good or excellent place to work. One in three employees does not feel financially secure, and more than one in four says they feel less financially secure compared to last year at this time. Almost half are not confident they have enough money to cover future expenses.

“In this climate, the need for effective benefits education is greater than ever,” said Barbara Nash, Unum’s vice president of corporate research. “Our research shows that a good benefits education experience is a highly effective, low-cost way for employers to demonstrate their concern for employees and their well-being.”

The link between a positive benefit education experience and overall workplace satisfaction isn’t new, yet Unum’s research finds that employers continue to spend too little time and fewer resources on helping employees understand their benefits:

  • 28% of the respondents who were asked to review their benefits in the past year described the level of education provided by their employers as fair or poor.
  • Only half of those employees said they received printed information or brochures, which was down from 70% in 2008.
  • Just over a third of those employees were offered a chance to attend an information and question-and-answer session about benefits, which was down from 52% in 2008.
  • The percentage of employees who had access to a toll-free number to speak with a benefits adviser dropped sharply to 29% in 2011 from 47% in 2008.

Unum’s research shows just how important an effective benefits education can be with regards to workplace satisfaction.
In this most recent survey, 82% of employees who rated their benefits education highly also rated their employer an excellent or very good place to work. Conversely, only 27% of employees who rated their benefits education as fair or poor also said their employer was an excellent or very good place to work.

And some 79% of those who rated their benefits education highly said they would choose to stay with their current employer even if they were offered the same pay and benefits elsewhere.

“At the heart of the survey’s findings is a clear connection between effective benefits education and engaged employees,” said Nash. “When employers show their concern for their employees’ financial well-being, everyone benefits.”

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