This is the first of a two-part series. Check back Wednesday for the second installment.

How well do you communicate with employees? Do you give them information to help them choose their benefits? What about using those benefits throughout the year? Do they understand cost-effective ways to get the quality services they need?

If you’ve answered “not well” or “no” to any of these questions—or you’re not sure—it might be time to rethink your benefits communications. How well employees understand and use their benefits dictates how well they view you as an employer.

 Communications Equals Perception

A survey by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) shows health benefits achieve strategic business goals. That includes attracting, retaining and engaging talent, and improving productivity, among others. Yet without investing in benefits communications, can your employees understand the benefits you offer?

According to the MetLife U.S. Employee Benefits Trends Survey, less than half of employees “strongly agree” benefits communications help them understand how much services cost. That uncertainty can make them think your company doesn’t have their best interests at heart.

When it comes to communicating effectively, the stakes are high. Forty percent of employees believe benefits communications are easy to understand. That leaves a lot of employees scratching their heads.

Employees aren’t the only ones struggling. You might relate to our clients, who wonder how to distribute messages in a way that supports workers and reaches them where they are (in the field, at home, at their cubicle, etc.).

Set Your Budget

It’s important to plan ahead. You need to create a dedicated budget for your employee benefits communications.  Thirty-eight percent of member organizations in the International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans have a specific benefits communication budget. Communications made up three to ten percent of the total spent on benefits. Only you can determine the size of your budget.

Once you decide how much to invest in benefits communications, consider your business goals. Is it educating employees during open enrollment? Is it introducing a new benefit? Is it increasing participation in voluntary benefits?

Think strategically about how to allocate money for optimal results. Will a printed and mailed-to-homes guide give you the best return on investment? Is investing in a social media strategy a smart bet? Would your employees be more receptive to educational videos?

Conduct a communications audit to examine what worked in the past. Create a simple survey of your employees to ask their communications preferences. Compare to actions. Did that email campaign lead to increased enrollment in critical illness insurance? Did more people use the EAP after receiving an informational postcard?  Don’t forget to rely on providers for help. Communication materials from carriers can stretch your budget and let you devote time and money to the programs that need an extra boost.

Yes, communication about employee benefits is an investment. But that investment is a smart financial decision that can positively impact your bottom line.

Sharon Tucker

Written by Sharon Tucker

Sharon is an experienced marketing and communications professional who specializes in multi-channel marketing strategies. She enjoys the process of strategizing and implementing communication solutions that maximize the opportunity to educate, motivate and empower employees to make the right benefits decision for their family’s needs.

Trion Communications sharon.tucker@trion-mma.com