When It Comes to Employee Benefits: Think Communication!

When It Comes to Employee Benefits Think Communication - When It Comes to Employee Benefits: Think Communication!

Salary alone is not enough to recruit and retain your industry’s best professionals. A comprehensive benefits package is necessary as well. Most employers know this, and they spend billions of dollars a year on benefit offerings as a result.  However,  the recruitment and retention value of any benefits program is wholly dependent on employee participation. An outstanding package, complete with all the bells and whistles, is essentially worthless if few of your employees elect to enroll.

Fortunately, there’s a simple key to maximizing participation rates; communication.  Here are four keys for effective employee benefit communication

Think: EARLY

Don’t wait until new employee orientation to introduce the value of your company’s benefits package. Mention the benefits offered in your job postings. Talk more about them when interviewing prospective new hires. When you make an employment offer, reiterate them once again. If your top candidate is entertaining more than one opportunity, you can bet he’ll consider your benefits package.

Think: OFTEN

A recent survey conducted by one insurance company  found that a mere 32 percent of employees are comfortable making decisions about benefits offered by their employers. Regular communication about your company’s benefits package can increase awareness, understanding, and as a result, participation. Don’t rely on annual open enrollment periods alone. Consider a monthly benefits newsletter, quarterly benefits lunch-and-learns, and webinars employees can access at any time to learn more.


Jargon-filled booklets about health insurance, life insurance and retirement plans are real employee turnoffs. In various surveys, employees have suggested that easier to understand documentation would improve their utilization of the benefits offered by their employer. They’d also like documentation personalized to their needs and opportunities to meet face to face with benefits experts.

Think: VALUE

Your employees know exactly how much compensation to expect in each paycheck, but they probably have no idea how much their benefits are worth—even if they’re participating in the program. Don’t focus on individual offerings but on the total value of your company’s benefits package. This will include employer-paid taxes, commuter-assistance programs, voluntary insurance, vacation time, sick days and training opportunities as well as your employer-sponsored health plan, pension fund or 401(k) matches.

Employees who understand their benefit options and appreciate the value of the package offered are more likely to participate—maximizing enrollment levels. However, effective benefits communication is also essential if you want to retain your best employees. One recent survey found that 59 percent of workers would move on to a job with slightly lower pay if they believed it came with better benefits. Implement the suggestions above and talk with your benefits provider to make the most of your employee benefits program.

Health Benefits Trends

Health Benefits Trends - Health Benefits Trends

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act—also known as the ACA—was signed into law more than five years ago, requiring dramatic changes to the plans employers can offer their workers, how information on those plans are communicated, how eligibility is determined, and much more. It is only natural to believe that changes of this magnitude play a significant role in shaping employer-sponsored health benefits trends.

A recent report by the ADP Research Institute took a look at the plans offered by nearly 200 large employers—defined as those with 1,000 or more employees—between 2011 and 2015. After careful analysis, they identified several trends and key metrics of note—all at least partially attributable to the ACA. We’ve summarized the most interesting for you below, though you can review the entire report for yourself on the ADP Research Institute website.

Health Benefit Eligibility and Participation

In 2015, 93 percent of full-time employees were eligible for employer-provided benefits, up from 91 percent in 2011. This is possibly due to employers complying with ACA requirements and offering benefits to more of their workers. However, despite higher eligibility, only 75 percent took advantage of the health plan. As such, overall participation remained steady at 69 percent.

As might be expected, the highest participation rates were found among employees in the oldest age groups. In 2015, nearly 74 percent of eligible workers aged 60 or older participate in their employer’s health plan. Nearly 75 percent of those between the ages of 50 and 59 participated, while a little over 72 percent of those between 40 and 49 enrolled in the health benefit offered. Participation was lowest (37 percent and 69 percent respectively), among eligible workers 26 years old and younger and those aged 26 to 39.

Health Benefit Premiums

Researchers considered data on the premium costs of full-time employees at large employers in which both the employees and employers contributed to payment. The average monthly premium ($870 in 2015) rose slightly more than 2 percent each year between 2011 and 2015, resulting in an aggregate increase of 9.4 percent across all industries and demographic groups. Surprisingly—given the dire predictions of some pundits prior to ACA rollout—this is much lower than the double-digit increases seen in previous decades.

Employer contributions towards premiums declined an average of 0.7 percent from 2011 to 2015. The average total employer contribution in 2015 was $650, or about 75 percent of the monthly premium.

Whether you’re a small employer or a large organization, including an ACA-compliant health plan in your benefits package is essential if you want to attract and retain the best talent in your industry. Give us a call today for a benefit program review or additional assistance.