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Put it on Blast: Maximize HR Communication Channels for Higher Utilization

Mollie Lombardi on August 01, 2017 10:30 AM

The following post is the final article in a guest-authored, three-part series exploring how to leverage benefits programs to attract, retain and engage top talent. 

Organizations spend a lot of money on employee benefits. From basic healthcare coverage to on-demand massage, and everything in between, benefits are an investment. But if people don’t use them, it’s impossible to see any return on this investment, both financially and from an engagement perspective.

My last two blogs addressed the role that benefits can play in attracting and retaining talent, and they do play a significant role. But they can only have that kind of impact if people actually use them, and think of those benefits as a part of their employee experience. So why isn’t it easier to get the most value from the benefits you offer? There are three key reasons.

They don’t know what’s there
Less than half – 41% – of responding organizations in Aptitude’s 2016 Culture Study said that they felt confident that their employees had a strong understanding of the benefits available to them. Which means that in 3 out of 5 organizations, people have a minimal or incomplete understanding of their benefits. Major items like healthcare don’t usually get overlooked, but many other perks and programs that can actually help employees may go unused – like smoking cessation assistance, or wellness programs. All too often, benefits are quickly rattled off by a recruiter, there may be some brochures handed out on day one, and that’s it.

They don’t think they should
Even if you do a great job of communicating about the availability of benefits, your culture may be dragging down participation. A free gym membership is useless if employees only see managers coming in early, working through lunch, and leaving late. Managers can say “use your time off” or “of course, you should explore our sabbatical program.” But if leaders have created a culture where such behavior is not readily accepted or admired, it can be hard.

They don’t know how to pick
Decisions about insurance, childcare, and retirement planning can all be daunting, especially for new entrants to the workforce. Without guidance, some may skip taking advantage of benefits for fear of making the wrong choice. They may take the path of least resistance and sign up for whatever options their cube mate picked without realizing that they’re not getting the full value.

How do you overcome these challenges?

  1. Personalize Communications.  Organizations with high engagement are:
    • 11% more likely to offer interactive tools to aid in benefits selection;
    • 37% more likely to use in-person or virtual live meetings to discuss benefits options;
    • 85% more likely to use video in their benefits communications
  2. Educate Managers. They should know, discuss and model the use of your benefits offerings in interviews and inside the company. 
  3. Use Multiple Approaches.  Some people need the basic terms defined when making benefits decisions.  Some people want to read about it themselves. Some feel better sitting with a trusted advisor. Open as many channels as you can for communication about benefits, and show a willingness to help. 

Not only does boosting utilization of benefits improve the return on investment, it also impacts key business issues like turnover and engagement. HR leaders can use benefits as a tool to have a positive impact not only on individual employees and their lives, but demonstrated real business impact for leaders as well. Make sure your organization doesn’t miss out.

Mollie Lombardi is Co-founder and CEO of Aptitude Research Partners, a research-based analyst and advisory firm that helps businesses navigate all aspects of the Human Capital Management Technology Landscape, including talent acquisition, retention and engagement, and workforce management. Aptitude enables organizations to better understand how these aspects work individually - and together - to deliver optimal employee experience and engagement, as well as business results.

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Mollie Lombardi

With nearly two decades spent advising, developing and studying HR and business leaders, Mollie brings a wealth of knowledge and experience in human capital and workforce management insights to help ignite a new conversation at the intersection of HR technology, strategy, and impact. As Co-Founder and CEO of Aptitude Research Partners, she focuses on primary research covering end-to-end human capital management, to help organizations better understand their HR needs and the landscape of HCM technology solutions, and to help solution providers articulate the unique differentiators they bring to meet those needs. She has spoken around the globe to HR audiences on topics across the HCM spectrum, and has authored hundreds of research reports and papers. Her research has been featured in the Wall Street Journal, eLearning Magazine, CIO Magazine and other trade publications. Prior to Aptitude Research Partners Mollie was Vice President, Workforce Management at Brandon Hall Group and Vice President and Principal Analyst, Human Capital Management at Aberdeen Group.