coffee shop owner discussing with his employee using tablet

How Effective Employee Communication Can Increase Adoption of Your Benefit Programs

By Ben Eubanks | 3-min read

When it comes to employee engagement and turnover, we often think of the common items that make a positive impact: employee/manager relations, perks, and so on. But what if something as simple as better employee benefits adoption and communication could improve worker satisfaction and reduce the chances they’ll leave the organization? Let’s explore how benefits adoption and more effective employee communication can help to drive these positive outcomes. 

Benefits Adoption as A Positive Metric

Employers offer benefits with the hopes that employees will take advantage of them, but sometimes those benefits aren’t suited to the workplace population a business is targeting. In a recent interview with Joe DeLoss, Founder of regional restaurant chain Hot Chicken Takeover, I asked him how he cares for and provides for the needs of his workforce. The answer was simple, but surprising.

“Challenge yourself to listen and dialogue with your actual workforce about what their life experiences are. If you look at paying someone $10-$15 an hour, stock options and 401k benefits are not relevant. Think about how you can enrich someone’s life and stability through employment. The productivity and loyalty you earn can be disruptive.”

DeLoss said that his goal was to provide benefits and options that made sense specifically for his workforce, and the employees have responded positively to the offerings in terms of both productivity and loyalty. According to his research, the average food service company has about 73% turnover, but Hot Chicken Takeover’s number is closer to 23%, about one-third the industry average. He attributes this increase in employee retention to having “sticky” benefits that workers actually utilize.

Hot Chicken Takeover has an 80% participation rate for the benefits it offers to employees. DeLoss sees employee benefits adoption and participation rates as a great metric for leaders to understand if they are meeting the needs of their unique workforce or if they are properly differentiating the slate of benefits they offer. For example, two specific types of benefits he offers his hourly employees include financial and career development, outlined below:

  • Financial benefits: one-on-one financial coaching, banking access, and matched savings
  • Career development: career planning, leadership development, and job-related training

By offering benefits that match up with the needs of the workforce, employers can earn that loyalty DeLoss mentioned. But gaining that loyalty depends just as much on strong and effective communication as it does on the relevance of the benefits themselves. If amazing benefits are available but nobody knows about them, how can we expect workers to value and take advantage of what’s offered? Effective employee communication, and the strategy in how the employee benefits message is disseminated, is essential.

Taking a Targeted Approach to Benefits Communication

How can we ensure that our people know about the benefits available to them? It’s about helping workers understand their options and choose which best fit their family, life situation, or career stage.

Educating your workforce about the variety of insurances and benefits you offer from a management standpoint requires more than just a simple email send once a year. Instead, a multichannel approach using a variety of methods and communication channels is best for helping workers discover the right options for them. For instance, targeted campaigns before open enrollment can help workers to understand health benefit options. Another communication example might be messaging workers about retirement matching benefits prior to salary increases in order to help them see the future value of the money (for a retirement plan or otherwise) if invested. 

The Importance of Communicating About Benefits 

Recent research suggests a strong connection between employee benefits and retention. In a recent HRWins study, employees said that employer-paid health benefits, paid time off, and rewards for good performance were the offerings that contributed most to feelings of engagement at work. Engagement is connected with retention, so it logically follows that having that basic slate of affordable options squared away can help to ensure that employees not only stick around, but that they do so in a highly engaged state.

Communication is critical to forging this connection. Take this example: Dynetics is an employee-owned engineering firm with 1,500 employees. The health benefits they offer are highly competitive, and the benefits team recently shared a story about an employee that left the firm for a competitor but returned a few weeks later because the benefits weren’t up to her expectations. This isn’t about handcuffing someone to your organization: It’s about differentiation, good communication, and meeting employees where they are. If Dynetics had done a better job of communicating these unique, high-value benefits up front, that key employee might not have considered leaving at all. 

Instead of just throwing masses of information at all employees, employers can guide employees toward decisions that make more sense for them personally. By making a concerted effort to share with workers through a variety of media, employers can ensure employees are aware of their options and they can lead them to the employee benefits that best fit their work-life needs. Done correctly, and this adds up to increased adoption rates, more employee satisfaction, and better employee retention. A win-win for employer and employee alike.