One of my favorite phrases is “make it easy to buy and easy to use”. I learned it years ago in the hospitality industry. If you want to upsell a restaurant guest, make it easy for them to buy the premium product and use it. Basically, as the guest, I simply want to pay and enjoy.
This concept applies to other products and services too. For example, if you want me to upgrade my technology subscription then make it easy to buy and easy to use. If I have to logout, download a new app, reset my password, and it still doesn’t work, then this doesn’t make me want to spend the extra money.
It also applies to employee benefits. If you want employees to use their benefits, then they need to be easy to sign-up for and easy to use. The benefit should also be easy for employees to understand.
A new report from Colonial Life found that 47% of employees who work for companies with fewer than 100 employees understood their benefits package “very well” compared to employees at larger organizations (33%). The report cites organizational commitment toward benefit education being stronger and more personalized in smaller companies.
I’d like to think that I don’t need to tell anyone that employee benefits that don’t get used aren’t really benefits. What I mean by that is, the company can have lots of benefit options and they can be fantastic plans, but if employees don’t use them then it’s hard to explain the value. The answer is having a benefits program that’s easy to buy and easy to use. Here are a few things to consider:
Align employee benefits with company culture. When you think about your organizational culture and values, what benefits immediately come to mind? For example, if the company values work-life balance then is teleworking an employee benefit? Or if the company says employee well-being is important, then does the company offer dental insurance? You get the point. And when it comes to benefits, don’t forget that voluntary benefits can be an option.
Talk about employee benefits all the time. It’s not enough to mention benefits during an interview or new hire orientation. Employees are processing so much information, they honestly might forget. Think like a marketer and consider having regular employee benefits “coffee chats” or “lunch and learns” so employees can be reminded of how their benefits work. It might also make sense to offer a benefit “one sheet” separate from the employee handbook. This might be something that an employee keeps at their desk or on their refrigerator.
Make sure the benefits are serving their purpose. One of the biggest goals that employee benefits serve is helping to attract and retain talent. Managers should be asking about benefits during stay interviews. Benefits should also be asked about during exit interviews. If employees are declining job offers because of benefits, it’s common to say “Oh, they don’t know what they’re doing.” But the truth is maybe they do. And if employees are resigning for a better benefits package, it might be time to look at a realignment (see #1).
Employee benefits are an important part of the employee value proposition (EVP). But if organizations want employees to feel like they have the best benefits package ever, then they need to market those benefits. And make them easy to buy and easy to use for the employee.
Sharlyn Lauby is the author of HR Bartender (www.hrbartender.com), a friendly place to discuss workplace issues. When not tending bar, she is president of ITM Group, Inc., which specializes in training solutions to help clients retain and engage talent. She can be contacted on Twitter at @HRBartender.