If your workforce is overloaded with disengaged employees, youmight as well give them a streamlined benefits package thatincludes the very basics: paid time off, decent base pay, health insurance and pension plan.

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But if you’re seeking to build an engaged workforce, you’ll haveto do better than that.

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So says a study from Aon Hewitt, which surveyed a range ofemployees about their benefits package preferences. The result wasthat engaged employees tend to work for employers who offer than arich and balanced benefits package, a package that is wellexplained to them and that is competitive in the marketplace.

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The major difference between what the engaged and disengagedworkers had to say about their benefits packages was pretty simple:The more engaged employees say they have a benefits packages thatstrikes a balance between the classic components and elements thatbuild their career skills and contribute to work-life balance. The disengaged just don’tsee such a balance in their package, and feel the package they haveisn’t very competitive.

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The contract was stark. One quarter of disengaged employees saidthe total rewards reflected by their benefits package was subpar,compared to 60 percent of engaged workers. They reported that theiremployer offers them a total rewards package that exceeds thatoffered elsewhere.

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“Similarly, among engaged employees, half (51 percent) viewcareer development/training programs as better than what otheremployers offer, while only 19 percent of disengaged employeeswould rate these programs as better competitively,” the studysaid.

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The study found that more men than women felt their compensationand benefits were better than the competitors, and younger workerstended to feel that way more than their elder peers.

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Aon Hewitt asked the workers how well they understood thecomponents of their benefits package. PTO was well understood bymore than eight in 10 employees, as was base pay. The least fullyunderstood included such key components as the bonus system, careerdevelopment/training and work-life balance, where six in 10 saidthey understood what the benefit meant to them. Most said theywould like to have better communication from their employers aboutthe elements of their pay and benefits packages.

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While well over half of all those surveyed said they understoodtheir benefits package, less than half found the individualcomponents as “above the competition.”

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Here’s how many of all those surveyed rated benefits elements asabove the competition:

  • PTO: 42 percent
  • Pension plans: 41 percent
  • Bonus incentives/commissions: 30 percent
  • Base pay: 27 percent
  • Careeer development/training programs: 22 percent
  • Work-life balance: 20 percent

“Companies could see improvements in employee engagement byincreasing awareness and understanding of these programs,” said PamHein, partner, communication consulting, Aon Hewitt. “Oftenproviding Total Rewards statements and related web tools can helpfoster greater understanding. Administering engaging quizzesor quick assessments to employees can also draw attention torewards that may be undervalued or misunderstood.”

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Dan Cook

Dan Cook is a journalist and communications consultant based in Portland, OR. During his journalism career he has been a reporter and editor for a variety of media companies, including American Lawyer Media, BusinessWeek, Newhouse Newspapers, Knight-Ridder, Time Inc., and Reuters. He specializes in health care and insurance related coverage for BenefitsPRO.