Top tips for avoiding the miscommunication of employee benefits

Need to know:

  • A targeted, personalised approach to communication is the key to boosting take up of employee benefits.
  • Sharing benefits communication across multiple channels, including email, messaging platforms and social media will help to reach as many employees as possible.
  • Repeating benefits communications regularly throughout the year will keep them front of people’s minds.

An effective communication strategy makes a huge difference to the level of appreciation that staff have for their employee benefits package. Conversely, miscommunication can leave employees unaware or unclear about just valuable their benefits are. Here are some practical tips for ensuring that the benefits message hits home.

Make communications personal and educational

Employee benefits help to make staff feel valued, recognised and engaged, but are of little use if they feel they don’t meet their personal needs. John Deacon, head of employee benefits at Buck, says: “[Employers] need to take a targeted, personalised approach to communication if they want to boost employee engagement, particularly as the needs of the workforce are becoming more diverse.”

Conversations around employee benefits should also focus on educating employees about the benefits available to them and what they mean, while supporting them to make decisions that are right for them. Pete Hykin, cofounder of pensions firm Penfold, says: “Take workplace pensions, for example. Auto-enrolment is great, but once it’s set up, very few employers do any work on actually speaking to teams and educating them about it. This means many people are confused by all the complicated jargon and rules around contributions, salary sacrifice etc, and feel immediately disengaged.”

Communicate complementary benefits

Developing communications around grouped ‘needs’ helps to demonstrate the worth of the insurance benefit to the employee and reinforces their decision-making process. Adrian Matthews, employee benefits director at MetLife, says: “For example, if an individual is keen on ensuring their health is taken care of, then show them private medical and dental insurance in action. If their focus is on ensuring their family is taken care of, then an emphasis on critical illness and life insurance could work well for them.

Use multiple communication channels

Sharing the same message across a range of communication channels is key to reaching as many employees as possible. Communicating digitally is often the quickest, easiest and lowest-cost option. Other ways to communicate benefits include posters and flyers, emails, screensavers, newsletters and intranet pages. The most and least effective methods will vary from employer to employer especially in the new hybrid working world where employees aren’t necessarily working from the same location.

Invite employee feedback, and questions, and provide answers

Always have someone available with an in depth knowledge of the benefits package who can answer any questions employees may have about their benefits. “In any walk of life, people are unlikely to buy into something they know nothing about, and this rings true for benefits packages as well,” says Natalie Rogers, chief people officer at Unum. “Getting to grips with everything can take time, so if your own people lack the depth of knowledge or experience on certain subjects, your benefits provider can help you.”

Avoid information overload and one-time campaigns

There can be a tendency to bombard employees with all benefits information in one communication, which can be an overwhelming amount of information to digest, and is likely to put people off reading rather than engaging with the communication. “A better approach is to share regular communications focusing on particular elements of your benefits package,” says Adrian Warren, director at Cyclescheme and Chair of the Cycle to Work Alliance.

The introduction of a new employee benefit is often accompanied by a flurry of communication, but once that initial flurry has died down, employees can quickly forget. Employers shouldn’t be afraid of repeating communications around benefits throughout the year to keep them front of mind. “One solution is to producing a simple FAQ sheet that covers off the basics around the current policies available, and to share or distribute it around staff at key moments within the year,” says Matthews.