When Employees are Well-Informed, Everyone Benefits

Effective communication key to a more satisfied, engaged workforce, according to this special advertising supplement sponsored by Unum.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009
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While the realities of this difficult economy are stark, there is a simple way to help employees stay engaged, productive and positive.

Research clearly shows that employees who feel valued by their employers also feel loyal, have a positive perception of their companies and have higher levels of workplace satisfaction and productivity. And there is a direct connection between how well employees understand their benefits and whether they feel valued and engaged.

A recent survey of more than 1,100 employed adults revealed that employees who feel they receive quality benefits education are far more likely to feel satisfied at work. The survey, commissioned by Unum, also showed that employees who receive quality benefits education would be considerably more likely to stay with their employers even if they were offered the same pay and benefits elsewhere.

People are the lifeblood of any successful business, and in this challenging economy employers are more focused than ever on ensuring their workforce feels valued. A recent survey of employers by the Society for Human Resource Management revealed that employers are focusing less on recruiting new employees and more on increasing employee engagement and satisfaction.(1)

Quality benefits education is a simple and truly effective way employers can show employees that they value the energy and effort they give their work, day in and day out. And research from Unum offers some clear evidence of what makes an effective benefits education plan.

Strengthening workplace connections

The benefits of 3 + 3

An effective benefits education plan is built on two elements: enough time to review benefits choices and information, and a variety of communications methods.

While employers may believe they offer effective benefits education, many employees say there is room for improvement. One in four of the adults surveyed in the Unum study reported their employer?s benefits education was fair or poor. Fewer than 40 percent of those surveyed said their employer offered excellent or very good benefits education.

Unum?s research showed that employees who had more than three weeks to review benefits education materials were far more likely to say that they had enough time to make informed decisions.

With three weeks to review benefits information, employees have sufficient time to:

* Take materials home to share with a spouse

* Evaluate their personal situation

* Attend any informational meetings offered

* Consult with family or friends

* Do benefits research online

The same survey showed that using at least three different forms of communication ensures the materials will reach employees with various learning styles.

* Visual learners may prefer videos or printed materials with images.

* Auditory learners may prefer a podcast, video or spoken communication.

* Hands-on learners may prefer online interactive tools or worksheets they can fill out.

It may sound simple, but ensuring workers have adequate time and the right tools to understand and choose their benefits is a critical element of effective benefits education.

Offering something more

Research clearly indicates that when it comes to benefits education, one size does not fit all. And when it comes to the benefits options employees are offered, research also reveals that making voluntary benefits part of the picture is another way to increase employee satisfaction.

A diverse and versatile workforce is a powerful resource for any successful business. But meeting the benefits needs of these employees and offering them options they will appreciate and value means having a flexible approach to benefits coverage.

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Today?s workplace includes employees from four generations and a host of ethnic backgrounds who have evolving views on gender and family roles. The survey by Unum found that employees place high value on having a choice of coverage so they can pick the benefits that are right for them based on their stage of life and personal circumstances.

Helping employees understand their options and preparing them to make the choices that can help protect them financially is one of the most effective ways an employer can demonstrate appreciation for the work employees do every day. The connection between quality benefits education and an engaged, satisfied workforce is clear.

The right benefits provider not only knows this, but also understands how to turn that knowledge into a truly effective benefits education plan.

The best partner will be able to:

* Offer both traditional group and voluntary benefits to offer more choices to a diverse workforce

* Provide multiple educational communications using a variety of learning methods

* Offer clear and relevant education and communications materials

* Provide communications materials online when requested

* Communicate to employees clearly why:

-- The benefits offered are valuable

-- The offering means the company values its workers

-- The company offers benefits that can affordably meet employee needs

Employee benefits are one of the clearest ways employers can demonstrate their appreciation for the work employees do every day to build their success. Ensuring that employees understand and value those benefits helps strengthen the foundation of a relationship that benefits everyone.

Unless otherwise cited, all statistics are from the following Unum study: ?Employee Education and Enrollment Survey,? January 2009. Results based on a random survey of 1,122 employed adults with benefits from a variety of providers.

1 SHRM, ?Programs and Practices to Confront the Workplace Effects of the Downturn in the Economy - SHRM Poll,? April 2009.

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