5 Steps to Improve Employee Satisfaction with Benefits

This article was first published in BenefitsPro.

Employee benefits are crucial to the satisfaction and productivity of any workforce. Research has consistently shown a direct link between the perceived quality of benefits employers offer and overall employee job satisfaction. For example, a study by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) found that 92% of employees say benefits are critical to their overall job satisfaction.

However, despite their importance, there is often a gap between the benefits 0employers offer and the benefits employees value most. According to research from MetLife, employee satisfaction with their benefits fell to 61% in 2023, down from 64% in 2022 and the lowest point in the past decade.

Addressing this gap is not about just adding more benefits. It can also involve enhancing (or educating employees on) the right benefits to meet their evolving needs and those of their families. More specifically, it involves advancing your communications through a variety of methods to communicate how benefits can support employees in their time of need.

What can organizations do to drive employee satisfaction with their benefits? Here are five steps that make a difference, regardless of the company type or the benefits being offered.

1. Understand your “why”

The first step is to assess your current benefits strategy. Does it align with your organization’s overall talent strategy? Does it meet the diverse needs of your workforce? More importantly, can your benefits team clearly articulate why you offer the benefits you do and how you measure their success?

It’s crucial to evaluate the effectiveness of your current program. This assessment must go beyond cost analysis to consider how actively employees engage with each benefit.

Where possible, collaborate with your benefits administration provider and broker or consultant to compare engagement levels with other clients using the same enrollment platform.

Benchmarking your benefits program against industry standards can provide valuable insights into its effectiveness. By analyzing data on benchmarks such as employee and family participation rates, claims utilization, and satisfaction levels across similar organizations, you can identify areas where your program excels and areas that may need improvement.

Understanding your “why” will help you identify the strengths and weaknesses of your current offerings and develop a more targeted strategy — one that personalizes benefits and your communication and outreach strategies for each individual.

2. Invest in deep personalization

Personalization isn’t the future of employee benefits — it’s the present. A one-size-fits-all approach to benefits design, communication, education, and employee outreach no longer works and leaves many needs unmet. A personalized benefits approach empowers individuals to choose options that align with their specific circumstances.

For instance, some employees may prioritize higher HSA contributions, while others may prefer comprehensive health coverage or wellness programs. Additionally, some individuals may need guidance to navigate and discover these valuable programs for themselves and their families.

It’s crucial to educate employees on how to choose the right benefits and effectively use the benefits they select. This ongoing education ensures that employees maximize the value of their benefits package.

By using personalized strategies based on each member’s data and behaviors, you meet employees where they are and empower them to make choices that best support their lifestyle and wellbeing. This leads to higher employee satisfaction, increased engagement, and, ultimately, a more productive workforce and better return on the dollars you and your employees invest in these plans.

3. Get useful feedback from employees

One of the most effective ways to ensure your benefits resonate with your workforce is simple: Ask them! Historically, attempts to collect feedback have been generic — surveys, focus groups, or town hall meetings. However, these methods often lead to confusing and conflicting feedback.

In today’s world of hyper-personalization, a more effective approach is to ask for feedback in real time or shortly after employees use their benefits.

Analyzing employee behavior and capturing feedback at or near the time they use their benefits offers at least three advantages:

  1. A deeper understanding of employee needs. Real-time feedback provides more accurate and relevant insights into what employees value and require.
  2. Behavior change. Timely education and suggestions can encourage employees to make better-informed decisions regarding their benefits. For example, notifying an employee when they become eligible for a wellness incentive or other program can increase participation.
  3. A stronger connection between employees and benefits. Personalized feedback fosters a sense of ownership and engagement, leading to increased appreciation for the benefits offered.

By adopting a more targeted and personalized approach to feedback, you can ensure your benefits resonate with your workforce and drive higher satisfaction and engagement.

4. Leverage technology for benefits advocacy

A significant barrier to benefits satisfaction is simply a lack of knowledge about what’s available. Most employees spend less than 30 minutes reviewing information when they select benefits during open enrollment. You can have a great benefits program with many choices for individuals. But if employees never know about or understand those options, it can lead to dissatisfaction. Not only does this fail to maximize the return on investment in these programs, we might actually be diminishing the overall return.

Leveraging AI-powered tools can enhance benefits communication and education. AI-driven platforms can deliver personalized, jargon-free communications tailored to each employee’s needs and preferences. Additionally, virtual assistants can offer 24/7 support, answering employee questions and guiding them through complex benefits information.

Employers can meanwhile leverage AI-powered analytics to gain insights into benefits utilization and use this information to identify areas where education may be lacking. By analyzing pharmacy, medical, and behavioral data, employers can pinpoint specific benefits that are underutilized or misunderstood.

This data-driven approach allows for targeted communication and education initiatives, ensuring that employees are aware of and understand the full range of benefits available to them.

5. Adapt to employees’ shifting needs

To satisfy your workforce’s changing needs, consider a dynamic benefits approach that evolves alongside your people.

This means offering a range of benefits that cater to different life stages and personal circumstances. For example, younger employees may value student loan repayment assistance or financial planning resources, while employees starting families might prioritize enhanced parental leave or childcare benefits. As employees progress in their careers and lives, their needs are likely to shift toward elder care support or comprehensive retirement planning.

By leveraging technology, you can proactively identify these changing needs and tailor your benefits offerings accordingly. This data-driven approach ensures that your benefits package remains relevant and valuable to employees throughout their entire journey with your company.

Think of it like a GPS navigation system. Just as GPS dynamically adjusts the route based on real-time traffic conditions and the driver’s destination, so too should your benefits package adapt to the changing landscape, needs, and goals of your employees. This will ensure they are always on the right track to improving their overall wellbeing.

At every step: Improve your benefits with intent

The key to maximizing your benefits offering is to actively engage with, and listen to, the needs of your employees, offer them flexibility and education, and don’t be afraid to make changes.

Creating a better benefits experience makes a difference. This not only boosts satisfaction but also reinforces your organization’s commitment to its most valuable asset — its people.