Steve’s Blog: Awareness or Understanding?

Our popular blog writer, Steve Herbert, explains why Employees may only truly value their Employee Benefits if they understand them better.

A survey of 500 employers undertaken by GRiD (Group Risk Development) crossed my desk earlier this week, and one particular question and response rather caught my eye:

Question: 

Do you believe your employees are aware of the employee benefits you offer, and understand them?

Answers:

Yes, they’re aware of all of them and understand them all                              57%

Yes, they’re aware of all of them but don’t understand them all                   28%

Yes, but they are only aware of some of them                                                      10%

No, they are not aware of any of them                                                                      5%

Now at first glance the reader might assume that I would be about to comment on the last grouping listed – the 5% who were honest enough to admit that their employees were not even aware of the Employee Benefits package on offer to them, much less understood the value and workings of each component.  Yet I believe it is sufficient to say that many of those employers will already be aware that they need to take some urgent action to improve on this obvious failing.

Wishful Thinking?

Which takes me to the other end of the response table, because I am rather more interested in the 57% of employers that believed that their workers are aware of all of their benefits, and that all of them understand those benefits too.  So this positive response appears to tick all the right boxes, yet I genuinely suspect there may be more than a trace of wishful thinking in this collective employer assertion.

Now I really don’t doubt that many employers and their Human Resources (HR) department do indeed strive to regularly communicate all the component parts of their Employee Benefits offering to employees.  Yet how many of these messages are really landing or engaging the audience, and how many workers actually leave such briefings better informed?

Employers would also do well to remember that in any communication exercise it’s likely that at least a few employees (for instance new joiners, remote workers, or those on leave) will be overlooked.  As a result there are always likely to be at least some workers who are far less aware of the Employee Benefits available to them.

 

Understanding Matters

But does this gulf between employer perception and employee awareness and understanding really matter in the final analysis?

I believe it does.

From an employee perspective it’s necessary to know what benefits are in place, how they will provide practical and tangible support, and (importantly) how to access such offerings quickly and when most needed.  Only with that knowledge will the benefits offering be fully appreciated and utilised.  That ideal outcome should also – by extension – result in the employer achieving a better return on their Employee Benefits spending too.

The bottom line is that an Employee Benefits offering is really only as good as the understanding and usage of the offering by the very employees it is designed to support, and at Howden we are already seeing an increased demand from employers who see communication services as a key element of their overall Employee Benefits spending.

 

Improving communication

So I would strongly encourage all employer’s to revisit their Employee Benefits communications to make sure that the messages are being received and understood by workers of all grades.

For some organisations this might mean extending the methods of communications used.

Of course, at the time of writing this item, the options to deliver such messages are perhaps more limited owing to social distancing and/or remote working.  But employers can and should experiment with digital tools and apps, webinars, videos, company intranet pages, virtual benefits fairs, and the good old fashioned written word too.  And the more methods used, the greater the engagement and understanding is likely to be.

 

A Final Point

Finally, it’s worth also mentioning that the same GRiD survey also included a section for employee responses.  The below question was answered by 1165 individual workers.

 

How does your company communicate the benefits they offer you?

In response some 16% of employee-respondents claimed no communication at all, and a further 19% didn’t know (or couldn’t remember) how such communications were delivered.

So regardless of employer perceptions, it appears that more than a third of employees are not hearing or receiving those key messages about their Employee Benefits package.  This fact alone should be more than enough evidence to encourage many more employers to undertake a full review of their current communication methods.

Steve Herbert is Head of Benefits Strategy at Howden Employee Benefits & Wellbeing 

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