One-third of U.S. adults do not fully understand their health benefits. If you’ve been in the HR or benefits field for any length of time, you probably aren’t surprised by this statistic. Frankly, providers don’t make it east with insurance jargon and legalese. That’s why it’s not surprising that 66% of employees wish they were more informed about their benefits.
As communications professionals, we’ve been helping companies with internal and HR/benefits communications for over 20 years and have seen the existing gaps. It’s the space between what employers want employees to know about their benefits and what employees genuinely understand. It’s the challenge we hear all too often from clients. Our team wanted to dig deeper into the causes of this disconnect. In 2022, Westcomm conducted an innovative research study to discover how professionals working in employee benefits communications feel about their work, their value to their organizations and the critical communications hurdles they face.
The results showcased organizations with robust benefit communications programs are more likely to maximize their benefit program investments. They are better positioned to help employees improve their health while saving money. This is integral because many company benefits go unused or underutilized. After all, employees don’t understand them. Because of this, many employees are missing opportunities to save money, improve their health and find more convenience while employers see their investment in benefits programs going to waste.
Additional key findings include:
- HR professionals strongly believe benefit communications matter, regardless of industry or organizational size. According to the report, 87% of respondents believe employees should be able to get answers to benefits questions quickly. Seventy-seven percent said well-designed and engaging employee benefits communications generate returns on investment.
- A communications budget is a must-have to engage employees in benefit programs and get a return on investment. According to survey data, 62% of organizations have annual benefit communications budgets of less than $250,000. What’s most important, however, is how those budget dollars are used. Offering benefits — backed by communications that focus on awareness and education — encourages employees to use their health plans to get and stay healthy, which helps lower the cost of the benefits.
- The more time and resources HR professionals have, the more equipped they are to get a return on investment. Most respondents (70%) use a combination of internal resources and external partners to support their employee benefits communications. Those who work with outside partners tend to rate them highly and see them as a complement to their teams as experts in the field of benefits communications.
- Email was the most common tool cited, used by 94% of respondents. Other popular channels include in-person meetings, enrollment guides, company intranets, and webinars. Employees positively received decision-making tools such as calculators, comparison sheets, and digital platforms. Several options allow employees to receive important information best suited to their needs.
- Metrics are hard to come by — but they are becoming increasingly crucial to leadership. Most respondents said the primary way they measure the success of their benefits communications is by enrollment or plan participation. Yet HR professionals can gain better insight into the effectiveness of their communications with post-engagement surveys, focus groups, and tracking questions to an HR service or call center. This identifies hot topics and informs future communications.
The results of this study confirm the most important advantage of effective benefits communications is healthier, happier employees — employees who then, in turn, can be more focused and productive. The report is a valuable tool to shape your benefits communications during open enrollment, significant benefit changes, and yearlong communications.
Guy Westermeyer and Gary Spondike
Guy Westermeyer is the owner and founder of Westcomm, a full-service communications firm with expertise in benefits communications, employee communications, digital marketing, video, social media, and content marketing. His strategic thinking and planning ability has shaped communications initiatives for small business start-ups and established multi-national corporations. Gary Spondike is the executive vice president of Westcomm, who has 30 years of experience blending the creative with the tactical, ensuring clients get results and creatives have the best path forward in doing extraordinary work. Download your complimentary copy of the New Insights on What Works!: Benefit Communications Survey Report: or contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com for more information.