- Nearly 70% percent of employees spend an hour or less considering their benefits at enrollment time, according to a new survey of 1,500 full-time U.S. employees by Colonial Life.
- Employees who rush through their benefits choices are 23% less likely to understand their benefits moderately or very well, the survey found. They are also 55% more likely to leave their jobs in the coming year, 32% more likely to feel dissatisfied in their jobs and 18% less likely to feel cared about by their employer, it continued.
- Women and single or divorced employees tend to take less time considering their benefits, as are employees at companies with fewer than 250 employees and employees without children, according to the report.
Unfortunately, it's not surprising that employees tend not to understand their health benefits very well, as they don't spend a lot of time reviewing their options. According to a 2018 Unum poll, employees spend 30 minutes or less reading open enrollment materials. The haste could be due to emotional discomfort — about one-fifth of respondents reported that signing up for benefits resulted in stress, confusion and anxiety.
So, what's the solution? As tempting as it may be to inundate employees with all the information you think they might need, it's important not to bombard them, Brenda J. Mullins, vice president of human resources and chief people officer at Aflac, said in an opinion piece for HR Dive. Discrete, "bite-sized" communications spread out over time are far more effective than an avalanche during open enrollment.
Additionally, varied strategies can help you reach a wider range of employees more effectively. Some employees, for example, prefer town hall meetings, while others do well with online quizzes and contests. A benefits advisor can help an employer design communication strategies and schedules that are a good fit for its particular workforce.
But employers shouldn't make the mistake of thinking that benefits confusion, discomfort, or haste means that benefits aren't important to their employees. According to 80% of respondents in a 2018 online survey conducted by the American Institute of CPAs, a job with benefits is preferable to the same job with more pay and no benefits. This was true even though only 28% of respondents were very confident that they were fully using their benefits.