Benefits decision-making continues to gain importance in corporate America, with 40% of plan sponsors saying that the employee benefits decision-making process in their company has changed to some extent over the past five years, according to a recent study from Prudential.

The influence of senior management has increased the most, with 45% of respondents saying they are more involved in these decisions. More than 20% of plan sponsors indicated that the boards of directors, finance/treasury and employees themselves are all playing a more important role in the benefits decision-making process. Twenty percent of plan sponsors noted employee benefits had an increased influence over this same period.

Brokers' perception of changes to the decision-making process is even more marked, with more than two-thirds of those surveyed seeing changes in the areas and seniority of people involved in the decision-making process.

"Our research suggests that greater involvement throughout the employer organization may enhance the decision-making process and lead to more relevant benefit offerings," says John DeLorenzo, senior vice president of sales and account management for Prudential Group Insurance. "Executives who believe there have been significant changes to the decision-making process are more likely to say their employees are satisfied with their benefits programs."

Greater involvement by senior management and a more inclusive approach correlates with better communications, according to the study. Those reporting that they’ve seen greater change in the decision-making process rate the effectiveness of their benefits communications significantly higher (48% rate their benefits communications as highly effective) than those who have seen little or no change in the process (25% and 18%, respectively, rate their communications as highly effective.)

"Companies that are more focused on benefits tend to pay more attention to communications, which in turn leads to higher levels of employee satisfaction," says DeLorenzo. "Workers want to understand their options fully before deciding how to allocate their hard-earned benefit dollars."

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