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How to Boost Participation in Your Employee Benefits Program

September 22, 2020

by Leah Davis, CPA

Boost Participation in Your Employee Benefits Program

Employees in today’s market expect their employers to offer benefits. And many employers do. But in many instances, employers worry their offerings go unnoticed or unappreciated. Sound familiar? Especially now, there are a few simple things you can do to help your employees better comprehend—and take advantage of—the benefits you offer.

1.  Understand what people value.

If you do nothing else, take time to research what your employees and prospects care about to ensure you’re spending your dollars wisely. Sure, medical and dental plans are a given, but think beyond the usual health-plan offerings. There are non-traditional benefits you can provide that don’t cost much or even a cent.

For instance, consider implementing “surprise holidays,” which are, as you might have guessed, unplanned paid time off (PTO) days. Here’s how that might play out: “Guess what? We’re all taking the day off after the big playoff game!”

Another great idea is to offer employees a day or two every year, paid, to volunteer for a cause they’re passionate about. Ask them to represent your organization in the community, and be sure to have them snap a few fun photos to share with the rest of the team when they return.

2.  Market your benefits package internally.

Most employers showcase their benefits package in recruiting and offer materials. But all too often, employees never hear another word about it once they’ve been hired. Marketing all of your benefits internally, at least annually, can prevent new—and seasoned—employees from being left in the dark. It’s especially critical for non-traditional benefits or “perks” that employees may not expect and can easily forget about.

3.  Educate and encourage.

Have you noticed a lack of participation in your health savings account (HSA) or retirement plan? Low benefits participation could be a sign of a knowledge gap within your organization. It’s important to remember that the average worker feels overwhelmed by the cost and complexity of insurance and benefit plans. A critical part of providing valuable benefits is to educate your employees on how to use them.

We often see a knowledge gap with employee assistance programs (EAPs). Often offered as part of a group medical insurance plan, an EAP can provide employees with free legal assistance, counseling sessions, social services, and other resources—all available by calling a number on the back of the insurance card. Despite an EAP’s many options, many employees have no idea the benefit even exists and risk overlooking critical support services when they need it the most.

It’s also common for employees to save up their vacation time only to never use it. When this happens, employees may not feel like PTO is much of a benefit, and they could risk burnout. To prevent this, some companies offer a vacation bonus. For example, the company might say: “If you commit to taking five days off at one time, we’ll give you a $300 bonus to use on something fun during your time off!”

4. Be positive.

Your employees will pick up—and mirror—your attitude. So, stop dreading open enrollment. Make it fun, or better yet, make it a celebration! Many companies have adopted this approach as a way to encourage participation and foster engagement. Be sure to invite spouses, too, and make sure they’re able to ask questions. (Benefits often get lost in translation for the spouse at home.)

Build excitement around your benefits package.

When you offer meaningful, creative benefits and communicate them well, your employees will act. If you’d like to explore ways to boost participation in your benefit program or step up your employee benefit education efforts, we can help. Contact our team today.


Meet the Expert

Leah Davis, CPA

With experience and empathy, Leah develops customized solutions to help employers solve their people challenges.

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