How to ensure employees take advantage of voluntary benefits

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Are your employees satisfied with your company’s benefits? A 2016 SHRM study found that while three-quarters of HR professionals believe employees are happy with benefit offerings, only 27% of employees reported high satisfaction.

One thing employees are asking for that can increase satisfaction and retention: voluntary benefits. In fact, 65% of employees say it’s an important part of their benefits package. Employees want a benefits package that is personalized to fit their current lifestyle needs, so they feel like they are truly benefiting from what they are paying for

Ensuring this means going beyond the traditional voluntary benefits and incorporating options like tuition/student loan assistance, caregiving services, financial counseling, identity theft protection and legal insurance. Once you have those benefits in place, how do you make sure employees take advantage of these benefit offerings?

Employers who see higher engagement with voluntary benefits consistently do the following:

Make communication a priority. Benefits communications need to go beyond providing employees a page on your intranet where they can find all the offerings themselves. Utilizing digital technology, like the intranet and e-mail, is crucial to a successful enrollment, but employers can’t ignore some of the more old-fashioned tactics, either.

Theresa Monti, vice president, total rewards & HR systems at The Kroger Co., shares that during open enrollment, they have each division host face-to-face enrollment meetings. “We give our divisions a script and a video that highlights our various benefit options,” Monti says. “We try to cover everything and then point them to our benefits portal for more details and enrollment information.”

Human-machine balance, personalized communications and hospital indemnity are among the offerings expected to grow next year, according to MetLife.
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Head of Benefits and Retirement Plans at Atos Ernie Florkowski echoes the importance of in-person information sessions. “We have sessions in the week leading up to open enrollment and the week of,” he says. “This gives employees a chance to ask questions in person.” He adds that Atos makes sure to have those presentations available online to employees for those who couldn’t attend.

Educate employees on the value of the benefits. With voluntary benefits, employees have to decide, is this worth spending my hard-earned disposable income on? In order to make that decision, they need to better understand what each benefit can provide them.

At the Atos benefits information sessions, Florkowski makes sure he has a representative from their broker call in for the meeting. “That way, employees can ask the broker questions directly if there’s something the presenter can’t answer,” he says, adding, “I’ve got my subject matter expert right there on the line.”

Leverage technology. Employees expect the enrollment process for all their benefits to be as accessible and easy as anything else in their lives that has moved to a digital platform, like online banking and shopping.

The wide array of providers offering more streamlined technology makes voluntary benefits easier to implement for employers. Online enrollment, automated processing of administrative tasks and the ability for employees to “self-serve” all make the voluntary benefits enrollment process more attractive to employees and employers: Employees appreciate the ease of enrollment and flexibility the technology provides, and employers lower their administrative and IT costs in the long run.

By following these best practices, you can make sure your employees are aware of your robust benefit offerings and take advantage of the voluntary benefits you’ve made available to them. In turn, you will find it easier to retain employees. An Aflac survey found that employees who were offered voluntary benefits were 19% more likely to be satisfied with their job — and 14% less likely to be job searching.

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Voluntary benefits Employee benefits Technology Workforce management Employee engagement