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Prudential report: Employers embracing multichannel approach to benefits communications

Brian Anderson

Despite the sentiment that we have entered a digitally dominant age, traditional benefits communication vehicles have not yet become obsolete. Employers report they are taking a multichannel approach to meet the needs and preferences of their employees according toDelivering the Benefits Message, the fifth in a series of five research briefs based on Prudential’s Eighth Annual Study of Employee Benefits: Today & Beyond. Group meetings and seminars are still considered the most successful communication methods with 74% of employers using them with great to moderate success.

“Digital communication vehicles continue to develop and progress around us but are not completely eclipsing traditional avenues of communication,” said Jean Wiskowski, vice president, sales strategies, Prudential Group Insurance. “Rather, employers are finding themselves relying on a full suite of tools to reach a dynamic and evolving workforce.”

Individual meetings, email, toll-free numbers and mail at home rounded out the top five most successful communication methods. Both targeted marketing mailings and mail received at home drastically spiked year-over-year with employers reporting each increased by 13% and 14% respectively. Many employers also reported that newer methods of communication are being used with great success including external social media networking and video, CD-ROM or DVD presentations.

Employees did exhibit a preference for communication vehicles in the digital realm with work email (47%), personal email (28%) and online avatar (19%) being named as the top three. Group meetings (19%) and individual meetings (18%) rounded out the top five. For employees the trajectory of benefits communications is clearly moving towards digital: Over the last year more employees have enrolled, obtained plan information and used financial planning tools on computers and mobile devices. Employees also feel that a majority of benefits-related activities will be available via smartphones or tablets in the next five years.

“As individuals increasingly choose digital tools to take in information, benefits communications will be no different. Employers and carriers will need to look at successful aspects of non-digital communications and incorporate them into the digital realm,” said Wiskowski.

As the trend towards year-round benefits education and enrollment strategy gathers steam, employers are examining additional methods carriers can use to communicate to employees outside of their annual enrollment period. To support this strategy, employers reported email would be the optimal vehicle with 84% stating it would be the best method. This finding also echoes employee sentiment. Home mailing (77%) and signing up on a benefits website (76%) rounded out the top three best communications methods outside of enrollment for employers. Notably, 46% of employers said that text messages to mobile phones were a good way to reach employees.

“The current environment for benefits communication vehicles is an expanding and changing one. As employers, brokers and employees begin to examine emerging communication vehicles, it is important to recognize the value traditional ones still hold,” Wiskowski said.

The research was conducted via the internet during August and September of 2013, and consisted of three distinct surveys—one for plan sponsors, another for benefits brokers and consultants and a third for plan participants. For more information, visit http://www.news.prudential.com/.



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