An effective benefitscommunication plan will reach employees and allow them to accessinformation when and where they want, (Photo:Shutterstock)

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It's not difficult to build a benefits program that's notvalued, utilized or cost-effective. All you have to do is believesome of today's common myths about benefits and enrollment. Butthere's good news: You can create a stronger, more competitivebenefits program just by dispelling thosemyths.

Myth #1: Employees understand the benefits available tothem.

Reality: Only a third of employees understandtheir benefits very well, according to a recent Colonial Lifesurvey of 1,500 full-time U.S. employees. And employees who don'tunderstand their benefits don't value them, or the significantinvestment their employer makes in them.

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This can lead to major problems, because lack of engagement withthe benefits program leads to lower morale and higher turnover, the survey showed. Employeeswho spend less than an hour considering their benefits atenrollment time are significantly more likely to:

  • Feel dissatisfied in their jobs
  • Think their employer doesn't care about them
  • Leave their current jobs within the next six months

Ask how much time is typically spend torecruit, hire and train a new employee, and you will quickly seethe impact on the bottom line when employees don't understand theirbenefits.

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Related: Confusion and risk-aversion driving poor benefitchoices

Myth 2: Employees take the time needed to research theirbenefits.

Reality: Sadly, this isn't true, either. Infact, 69 percent of employees spend an hour or less consideringtheir benefits annually, according to the survey. Even worse, athird say they spend less than 30 minutes learning about benefitstheir employer provides.

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It's not enough to simply offer a comprehensive, competitivebenefits package. To make that investment pay off, the benefitsprogram must be backed by an equally comprehensive education andcommunication program. Better education drives greater engagement —and higher participation levels that help your business succeed,too.

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An effective benefits communication plan will reach employeesand allow them to access information when and where they want, andmay include group and individual meetings, call centers and onlinechats, website or portals, and print and digital materials offeredover a period of several weeks.

Myth #3: My millennial employees prefer to research theirbenefits online.

Reality: Only 10 percent of millennials turn tothe Internet to learn about employee benefits at enrollment time,according the Colonial Life survey. That doesn't mean they don'thave questions and want help figuring out their needs and benefitsoptions — rather, it means most employees want to talk with a livehuman being. In fact, more than three-fourths of employees in thesurvey said they turn to other people, such as their HR department,coworkers, family members and friends, for advice.

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Yet that strategy may not be effective. The survey showed only40 percent of employees named HR professionals as their go-tosource to learn about benefits – with older employees more likelyto do so than younger employees. While more people turn to HRprofessionals than any other source, it still means the majority ofemployees aren't taking advantage of the most knowledgeableresource. And understaffed, overburdened HR staff may not have thetime and expertise to help employees determine their individualneeds and understand the types of coverage that best meet thoseneeds. The result is an even wider gap in benefits education formillions of America's workers.

Myth #4: Individual meetings aren't necessary to communicate mybenefits.

Reality: Research shows one-to-one sessions are the most effectivebenefits education technique. According to the survey, virtuallyall — 93 percent— of employees who've participated in one-to-onebenefits counseling sessions found them valuable. Yet only 15percent of employees are offered this kind of personalized benefitsenrollment experience.

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The reason why may reveal other myths: It's too expensive, or mycompany is too small to benefit from or qualify for this kind ofservice. The truth is this kind of personal support isn't availablejust to larger employers with bigger budgets. A top-tier benefitspartner will communicate with employees individually in allaccounts to ensure they understand all their employer'sbenefits—not just those the provider offers—as part of theirincluded services at no direct charge.

Myth #5: The core benefits I offer my employees areenough.

Reality: If you aren't offering a comprehensivebenefits package that includes core benefits such as major medicalas well as voluntary benefits such as dental, vision, life,disability and critical illness coverage, they're not going to becompetitive when it comes to attracting and keeping top talent. AWillis Towers Watson survey2 showed the vast majority — 79 percent— of employers offer voluntary benefits to enrich existing corebenefits and offer more personalized options.

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What's not a myth: You don't have to be anexpert in voluntary benefits, communication and enrollmentto have access to effective solutions. All you need is anexpert benefits partner who can complement your portfolio and yourtoolkit. Look for a partner that can provide both a wide array ofvoluntary benefits and the experienced, licensed, knowledgeablebenefits counselors to communicate and enroll them.

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Steven Johnson ([email protected])is vice president of Enrollment Solutions at Colonial Life &Accident Insurance Company. Colonial Life & AccidentInsurance Company is a market leader in providing financialprotection benefits through the workplace, including disability,life, accident, dental, cancer, critical illness and hospitalconfinement indemnity insurance. Colonial Life is a registeredtrademark and marketing brand of Colonial Life & AccidentInsurance Company.

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