Though consumer confidence is at a 16-year high, employees may not feel financially secure. Just over a third (38%) of employees say they feel in control of their finances, compared to 44% last year, according to MetLife’s 15th annual U.S. Employee Benefit Trends Study. On top of that, half of employees are concerned or anxious about their current financial well-being.

With open enrollment around the corner, now is the time for employers to address these concerns through benefits education. Nearly half of employees are confused about their benefits and stressed by the enrollment process, MetLife found. But employees are open to learning more: two-thirds of employees say they are looking for help in achieving financial security through benefits, the study showed.

What this means for employers is that they have a significant opportunity to help their employees better understand their benefits, and how they can provide income protection in the event something unexpected occurs — helping employees maintain the quality of life they have worked hard to create. Doing so will not only help employees make better benefit decisions to keep their long-term financial goals on track but, in turn, employers will build stronger engagement and loyalty among their employees.

To help employees understand the financial “benefits of benefits” this enrollment season, employers should deploy these five strategies.

1. Personalize benefits communications to make them relevant. Only a third of employees say their company's benefits communications address their life stage and personal situation. This may be why only half of employees say they’re confident they made the right decisions during last year’s enrollment. To address this, employers should take the time to tailor their communications to show how benefits are relevant to employees at any life stage — whether they are having children, getting married, buying a new home or caring for an aging parent.

2. Leverage benefit communication firms to drive participation and engagement. To improve employee understanding of benefits and boost overall employee engagement, partnering with a benefit communication firm is key. In fact, a third of employers who partnered with a firm saw an increase in enrollment, according to MetLife research. Of these, a third saw enrollment increases of more than 20% on average in high-deductible health plans, voluntary and wellness benefits.

3. Make financial wellness a priority. When designed and implemented well, financial wellness programs can address employees’ specific financial concerns. Use this time to remind employees about this resource and how it can help identify the benefits that will meet their specific financial needs. And, if you don’t yet offer a comprehensive financial wellness program, begin planning now.

4. Explain lesser-known benefits. While benefits like vision and dental may be easy to understand, some benefits aren’t as clear. When it comes to accident insurance, for example, only a third of employees say they understand how it works, MetLife’s study found. Similarly, just a quarter say they understand how hospital indemnity insurance works. Employers should develop clear communications that explain each product in human and relatable terms so that employees can easily understand how these benefits relate to them and their families.

5. Offer a broad array of benefits to drive loyalty. As with most things in life, employees today are looking for choice. To engage employees, providing them with a wide variety of benefits to choose from is key. In fact, more than half (52%) of employees say they are willing to bear more of the cost of their benefits in order to have choices that meet their needs, MetLife’s study found. And this drives loyalty: three-fourths (72%) of employees say that having the ability to customize their benefits would increase their loyalty to their current employer.

Ultimately, employers should view open enrollment as the peak time to drive greater engagement, productivity and loyalty among their employees. By helping employees better understand their benefits and how they can address their financial needs, employees will in turn make better decisions and be more engaged at work.

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