The disconnect between employees and their benefits

Gary Cassidy


It is generally acknowledged that the benefits employers offer to their employees directly impact their ability to attract and retain top talent. Despite the obvious importance that benefits play in a workforce’s overall health and financial security, there is often a disconnect between the reality of the cost and the benefits under the plan and the employee’s ability to grasp the information and then function within that reality.

In fact, a survey by ADP revealed that 40% of employees do not understand their benefits. Furthermore, in a survey conducted by Corporate Synergies, 84% of HR professionals said their employees do not understand how their behaviors and use of their benefits impact healthcare cost.

There is a way to bridge the gap, and that starts with educating yourself. Understanding how your employees and their dependents (participants) are using their benefits can help you discover savings that can help your bottom line. An analysis of your claims and pharmacy utilization can uncover specific metrics on how your participants use their benefits. For example, are they seeking treatment for common ailments (gastrointestinal disorders, headaches, ear infections, fever, bunions, etc.) at the emergency room? If so, you may be realizing a 300% to 2,000% increased expense over treatment provided at a primary care physician’s office. Similar savings can be achieved by using an urgent care facility, which will provide the same treatment to your employees while representing a significant annual cost reduction for your organization.

Here is what you can do to help lessen the financial impact of your plan utilization:

  • Create an awareness campaign that demonstrates how an employee’s use of benefits can directly impact their healthcare costs (and contributions) and the organization’s.
  • Highlight the cost benefit and convenience of urgent care facilities as an alternative to using the ER, if this is included in your organization’s plan offering.
  • Change your organization’s plan design to make it more cost-effective for employees to seek care from their primary care physician or an urgent care facility.

Remember, too, that the timing of your employee communications can be just as important as the information itself. So when is the optimal time to educate your employees? Your immediate response is likely to be during annual open enrollment. And while this answer is absolutely correct, it is important to remember that your employees use their benefits all year long, so make sure you are communicating with them about their benefits throughout the year. A smart employee education and communication strategy delivers frequent and easy-to-understand information, rather than text-heavy documents that they’ll never read.

Every organization has its own unique strategy for communicating with employees and it is important to provide multiple channels of choice to meet the needs of the entire population. When it comes to communicating with your workforce, an employee benefits information system that helps administer your plan can be a valuable tool. This online solution provides participants with the information they need in a format they can read and absorb at their own pace. Many benefits administration websites provide personal, interactive experiences to help increase employee engagement and comprehension of information. Additional communication channels, such as voicemail, email blasts and text messaging, have also proven to be effective tools to communicate timely information.

As an employer, your goal when it comes to benefits should be to get the right information, at the right time, in the hands of your employees. In the absence of frequent, targeted communications, your employees will turn to the next easiest resource for information: each other. The more proactive you are with targeted communications, the more your employees will see the care and commitment you have made to their health and well-being.

In turn, educated and engaged consumers not only understand their benefits, but appreciate that the choices they make will directly impact their benefits cost and contributions, and that translates into a financial savings for everyone.


©2015 Corporate Synergies Group, LLC. No part of this material may be republished or distributed without prior written consent.