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How to increase participation in your company's benefits plans

Woman reviewing employee benefits plan paperwork

Many companies offer a range of benefits, but employees don’t always know what’s available or what each benefit entails. This could lower employee participation in the benefits program, which could increase the cost of offering benefits – impacting both the company and its employees. So how can an employer increase participation in its benefits programs?

The International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans (IFEBP) released a study in February on employee benefits communication. It found the single biggest problem is employees do not open or read the communication materials about their benefits.  People don’t participate in benefits programs because they don’t take the time to learn about what they have or how to access it.

Employee benefits are a form of compensation. Those who don’t take advantage of them may feel underpaid. For certain benefits, especially retirement plans and critical illness, failure to participate can have a negative impact in the long run. 

Many employers have moved to automatic enrollment for retirement plans. That’s because employees get so caught up in the details of signing up that they never get around to completing the forms, so they miss out on the important tax and savings benefits that come with a retirement plan. Automatic enrollment not only increases participation, it can be structured to create a safe harbor that protects the plan from favoring highly compensated employees.

However, there are other tactics employers may use to improve employee participation, and companies shouldn’t hesitate to market benefits the same way they market their goods and services to customers. That means a willingness to make changes the same way they would if an advertising campaign wasn’t securing a high enough response rate. In the IFEBP study, participants outlined successful communication tactics for ensuring strong employee participation.  

Among the findings:

Think about it this way: You wouldn’t tell your best customers about an exciting new product feature in a bland form email, right? It probably wouldn’t get read. 

It’s the same with benefits. Yes, you’re doing something good for your employees by offering everything from a 401(k) to dental/vision insurance, but if the employees don’t know what you offer they won’t participate.

So do some marketing. Have a brown-bag benefits fair in the lunchroom. Send out text messages or take over the network screen saver. Hang up posters. The companies providing benefits – like Nationwide Employee Benefits - often are willing to partner on outreach and have materials that you can use. 

Employee benefits remain key to attracting and retaining top talent in today’s workplace - and are an easy sell to employees. After all, they offer cost-effective ways to improve their lives. But the benefits still have to be sold. With a little marketing ingenuity - and the assistance of the benefits providers - you should see increased enrollment numbers, and with that, enhanced employee satisfaction.

Nationwide Employee Benefits works closely with employers to ensure they have the right set of offerings and to support high participation rates. Learn more about partnering with Nationwide to develop a competitive group benefits offering for your employees.

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