Co-Founder and CEO of Corestream.

The dynamics of the employer-employee relationship are changing. Employee engagement is crucial, especially now as many employees are working remotely. How can employers boost employee engagement during uncertain times?

A holistic employee benefits offering — one that protects and enhances an employee’s life, beyond traditional health insurance — can positively impact employee engagement, satisfaction and productivity. However, a gap exists between the wide range of benefits employers offer and employee awareness about these benefits.  

Research into employee perception of benefits shows that employees value benefits over compensation. The numbers speak for themselves: In a survey by Staples of 1,549 Americans, more than half (62.3%) of employees said they would accept a lower salary in exchange for better workplace benefits. Additionally, employee discounts, flexible hours, regular remote work and financial assistance programs are among the incentives that help convince employees who are considering leaving to stay at their company.

Covid-19 has also influenced which workplace benefits employees now expect. For 92% of Americans, flexible work options have a direct influence on an improved quality of life. More recently, a MetLife study found employees see benefit programs as a way to significantly ease financial stress caused by the pandemic.

It’s clear employees want a wider range of benefits. It’s also clear that employers can do more to raise awareness about the benefits offered. While most large employers offer employee assistance programs, studies have found that as little as 5.5% of the workforce actually takes advantage of them.

Closing this awareness gap can contribute to developing trust and a stronger employer-employee relationship in the workplace. This can be accomplished through regular communication throughout the year, helping to engage employees and educating them on how to get maximum value from their plans.

Start treating employees like you would treat customers.

To build customer loyalty and satisfaction, brands must be intentional in their engagement strategies so customers feel valued. Today’s workforce operates in a similar manner. Employees also expect to receive authentic information in the same way they do in their personal lives: in a simple, digestible way. 

In my experience, employers and human resources professionals have historically erred on the side of caution when communicating via email about employee benefits. HR teams must find the balance between emails being perceived as spam and sharing content that is valuable for employees. Deliver the right level of engagement and education by personalizing emails, highlighting benefits that demonstrate holistic support for employees and ensuring that messages are clear.

Integrated marketing analytics can also provide employers with data-driven guidance to better target employee offerings. Data can also inform employers of new insights that influence workplace decisions (i.e., current benefits or new benefits) and have a direct impact on employee engagement and satisfaction.

Once all of the content is in place, remember that a successful employee benefits communication plan requires a regular cadence. Doing so arms employees with sufficient and relevant information to make well-informed benefits decisions throughout their tenure.

Simplify the employee benefits experience.

Despite a comprehensive employee communications plan for benefits, employee engagement can remain a challenge if resources for benefits information does not exist. 

As the CEO of a benefits platform, I’ve seen that a platform or portal can streamline the employee benefits process and empower employees to be the decision-maker. This can bring employees a sense of autonomy and make it simple for employees to easily discover what’s available to them, learn more about the various benefits offered and manage their benefits choices with hassle-free access.

Employers can further simplify the employee benefits experience by ensuring multiple communication follow-ups, especially after open enrollment season and throughout the remainder of the year. Ask employees questions about each of their benefits experiences, and use that feedback to continuously optimize future processes and offerings.

By engaging with employees and implementing communication touchpoints for feedback (i.e., employee surveys), employers gain direct access to actionable insights. Involving employees in the improvement of the benefits experience not only helps to gain a fresh perspective on related opportunities and challenges, but it is an ideal way to show trust and appreciation of employees’ opinions.

Build a strategic relationship with employees through benefits.

Employee benefits are a great way to bolster company culture and show employees that the company cares about their well-being while at work and in their personal lives. In the same way that customers today experience personalized advertising, employers, too, need to adopt the same approach when building relationships with employees. A one-size-fits-all method will fall short. Instead, companies need to shift their focus and develop a personalized and authentic approach to employee engagement. A benefits program that is supported by a commitment to regular employee communications is a good place to start.


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