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Care@Work / Care@Work Blog / Looking Beyond HR to Drive Benefits Utilization

Looking Beyond HR to Drive Benefits Utilization

Patrick Ball on February 22, 2017 11:03 AM

How were the open rates on your last HR-related email? Not great … you’re not alone.

Utilization of benefits and programs is one of the most common pain points we hear about from our friends and partners in the HR space. At the same time, studies from MetLife and others have shown less than half of employees say their company effectively educates employees about their benefits options. This is a problem for both sides.

Buzz-worthy employee benefits packages look great on paper and corporate websites. But if employees aren’t utilizing their benefits and perks, then you’re not getting the total rewards from your total rewards.

How do you make sure you’re delivering clear, concise information to enable your employees to make educated, informed decisions about their benefits when your benefits fairs are sparsely attended and literature goes untouched? It’s a challenge, but not one you have to meet alone.

Refresh your benefits communication by letting others deliver the message.

The benefits of a great employee benefits program are many. Employees who are satisfied with their benefits, perks and work-life balance are more likely to be loyal, engaged employees who’ll say their company is a great place to work. But even the most well- designed program can’t achieve its goals without utilization.

As much as we wish it were otherwise, HR communications can be like the white noise of a workplace: too easy to tune out. To move the needle on utilization, it might be time to think outside the box … and outside of HR.  

Here are a few options to consider.

  1. Executive Sponsorship
    In a recent piece for FORTUNE, our Head of HR Al Zink made the case that Facebook’s new extended bereavement and family leave policies have a strong chance of being utilized by employees because they have the public support from execs like CEO Mark Zuckerberg and COO Cheryl Sandberg. “A C-suite that leads by example, as Zuckerberg and Sandberg have, is a great start to removing the stigma around family-friendly benefits,” wrote Zink. “Hopefully, this type of highly visible top-down leadership empowers employees to take their leave or meet family responsibilities without fear of being passed over for the next big project or promotion.”  Benefits like flexibility, sabbaticals and PTO could all benefit from the kind of endorsement Facebook’s execs have given paid leave. 

    Related: The Zuckerberg Effect

  2. Employee Testimonials 
    Today’s consumers are bombarded with information – they’re marketed to constantly. That’s why peer reviews are so highly valued.  An endorsement from someone you like and respect goes further than any impersonal sales pitch. Try a Yelp-inspired approach to marketing your benefits. Crowdsource testimonials from employees who’ve had great experiences with your benefits, perks and programs. Promote these stories on your intranet, through newsletters or on the company website. Hearing about their colleagues’ great experiences could inspire more of your employees to utilize their benefits.

  3. Video 
    Video, as they say, is king. It’s projected to make up as much as 70 percent of all web traffic and is already a large part of the workforce’s go-to method for consuming information. Chances are, you’re already making recruiting videos. Think about how that can be applied to your existing workforce. The employee testimonials would make great videos. Look to see what your vendors have available, as well. You might already have content at your fingertips that employees can easily have at theirs. 

  4. Advocates and Employee Resource Groups 
    Does your organization have a new parents group? Book clubs? Maybe a wellness committee? Enlist these existing groups as focus groups and advocates for testing and promoting benefits or new additions to your program. The peer-to-peer promotion can be an effective way to encourage employees to engage with their benefits … plus, there’s strength in numbers. Using groups can quickly amplify the messages, and help employees feel empowered to utilize the benefits and supports available to them.

Building a Cultural Framework  

As you add up these elements, you get the makings of a cultural framework that supports benefits across your organization – not just within the HR function.

As Zink says in the FORTUNE piece, having this framework in place empowers employees and allows companies to begin to improve workforce performance and bottom line results through their benefits.

A few examples of this framework, as noted in the piece, are management training and putting in place best practices for covering leave and transition periods for new parents. Encouraging leaders and management to avoid scheduling meetings at the very beginning or very end of the day is another example of being a little more family-friendly. Simple things, like encouraging a high-performer to take advantage of tuition reimbursement programs and working with him or her so that it doesn’t impact performance or evaluations.  

Related: What Your Millennial Employees Want Out of Your Corporate Culture

“These types of initiatives improve performance and prevent careers from getting handicapped by family care responsibilities,” Zink wrote. “There’s data to back this up. Care@Work’s enterprise clients report backup care benefits allow employees to work as many as seven additional days per year. Etsy recently shared that nearly half of the employees who used its gender-neutral parental leave policy were promoted within the year. And a new report from the Boston Consulting Group found that "paid family leave offers increased employee productivity and retention based on a study of 250 companies that offer the benefit.

By looking for benefits champions outside of HR, you can drive utilization, remove stigma and improve individual and organizational performance. So many wins.

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