There are already countless articles about the benefits of employee engagement in a general sense – and common sense confirms nearly every conclusion. What’s much less talked about (unfortunately) are the advantages of boosting employees’ engagement with their benefits.
Employee benefits engagement means employees are well informed about their benefit options, and they feel comfortable choosing and using their benefits. In organizations with high employee benefits engagement, employees are more likely to understand the value of their benefits. Through this connected benefits experience, employees have a holistic view across health and financial programs, and they can see how their benefits work together to help them reach their personal and professional goals.
Engagement like this with employee benefits doesn’t happen by accident. HR and business leaders need to work proactively to educate employees and to encourage their participation in benefits programs. Many organizations invest tons of time and energy on benefits participation during the open enrollment period, but working year-round to keep employees learning and thinking about their benefits is one of the most effective ways to foster higher levels of engagement.
1. Embracing Health and Wellness Benefits for a Balanced Lifestyle
Traditionally, employee benefits have been linked with the idea of potentially better health outcomes. This is largely because well-informed employees can make optimal benefits selections, and they may be more likely to engage in behaviors that are preventive in nature. Employees who feel confident with their benefit choices can take advantage of programs designed to reduce costs and increase quality of care, all contributing to better health and better quality of life.
A Deloitte study reported that nearly all (91 percent) of respondents said that they had well-being goals—and a majority (75 percent) of employees and 89 percent of C-suite executives reported that improving their wellbeing was a top priority. When organizations offer benefit options and programs that are easy to understand and easy to use, employees are better able to work toward those goals.
2. Supporting Professional Growth and Work-Life Balance
Work-life balance has fast become a high priority for employees across roles and industries. The 2023 Salary & Recruiting Trends report by Hays revealed that one-third (33%) of employees consider work-life balance the most crucial consideration when looking for a job, and more than half (56%) said they would be willing to accept lower pay in exchange for a better work-life balance.
Benefits that help employees achieve the balance they seek, while continuing to grow professionally, may include skill development, ongoing education and flexible time benefits like expanded PTO, sabbaticals and volunteer time off.
3. Understanding and Utilizing Benefits for Financial Wellness
For many people, financial wellness is closely tied to other types of health and wellness, particularly when it comes to mental health care, stress management and the time and funds to access other types of medical care. Placing an emphasis on financial wellness is a fast-growing trend in employee benefits. Bank of America’s Workplace Benefits Report found that 97 percent of employers feel responsible for employee financial wellness and 91 percent saw higher employee satisfaction when offering resources that help employees manage their overall wellbeing.
Financial benefits go beyond salary and performance bonuses. True financial wellness relies on programs like retirement savings and financial education programs that equip employees with the knowledge and the tools they need to work toward financial health for the short- and long-term.
4. Enabling Talent Attraction and Improving Employee Retention
Great benefits – and great employee benefits engagement – can help with both talent attraction and employee retention, leading to a reduction in talent acquisition costs (and leadership headaches) over time.
It’s no surprise that job seekers are paying attention to the health and financial benefits employers offer. The Charles Schwab 2023 401(k) Participant Study found that health insurance was the top-ranked benefit (90 percent) and a 401(k) came in at a close second (88 percent).
When it comes to retention, employees who feel their benefits package is valuable (and they have a positive experience with their benefits) may be more likely to stay with their employer. There are some differences in the key types of benefits that appeal to different employees, especially when broken down by generation, but the overall message is clear: providing competitive employee benefits – and a benefits experience that empowers employees to work toward their goals – contributes to employee retention.
5. Increasing Program Utilization and Efficiency
Last but certainly not least, higher employee benefits engagement can lead to more efficient benefits administration, because employees are tuned in to benefit programs and motivated to get the most out of their chosen enrollments. In organizations where employees feel empowered to ask questions – and to make requests and suggestions – business leaders can use their feedback to improve benefit offerings.
Encouraging Employee Engagement to Enhance Benefits Value
Fostering engagement with employee benefits is more than just a checkbox on an HR to-do list. It's a strategic investment in employees' holistic well-being and the company's success. By nurturing a culture where employees actively understand, utilize and appreciate their benefits year-round, businesses can expect a ripple effect across health, finances, talent retention and operational efficiency. Ultimately, the value of boosting benefits engagement transcends mere participation. It forms the cornerstone of a mutually beneficial relationship between employers and their most valuable asset – their people.