Educating employees about their benefits is a high priority for 65% of North American organizations, according to new research by the International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans.

Its Benefits Communication Survey Results, which polled Canadian and U.S. employers, found that, despite prioritizing benefits communication, only 19% of employers surveyed said their employees have a high level of understanding of their benefits.

Read: Employee engagement difficult to measure: survey

The reasons employers provided for the low level of benefits understanding include:

  • Most participants do not open/read materials (80%);
  • Almost half don’t understand the materials; and
  • Participants do not perceive value in their benefits (31%).

“Benefits are a vital part of employees’ lives, in and out of the workplace,” said Julie Stich, CEBS, research director at the International Foundation. “It’s crucial that employees understand both their value and how they work.

“Employers see the need to simplify complicated benefits content, and to communicate in different languages and to multiple generations.”

Read: Communication and customization key to health and wellness programs

According to the research, employers are using various communication platforms to get the word out to employees, including:

  • Educational materials printed and mailed to homes (89%);
  • Email (73%);
  • Printed and distributed in the workplace (69%);
  • International websites (66%); and
  • External websites (58%).

However, few organizations use non-traditional communication platforms, such as video (29%), social media (23%), texts (10%), robocalls (9%) or games (7%).

Read: Why is video today’s hottest communication tool

The areas that employers most commonly communicate to their employees are retirement (74%), healthcare (74%), and wellness/mental health (72%).

Looking to further promote benefits education with their organization, respondents to the survey said they are examining different delivery methods for communication materials.

The methods by which they are finding the highest success rates include:

  • Communicating by life stage, such as parental leave and retirement planning (81% success);
  • Year-round communication (79% success);
  • Leveraging word of mouth by relying on their own employees to help spread the word (75% success);
  • Communicating in multiple languages (74% success); and
  • Simplifying complicated benefits content (72% success).

Read: 4 top benefits communication trends

Moving forward, the top goals for benefits communication among respondents are helping participants better understand and use their benefits (89%), getting individuals to understand the value of their benefits (52%), and helping participants make smarter personal health and/or finance decisions (49%).

A quarter (25%) of respondents are planning to increase their benefits communication budgets in 2016.

Read: Why you need a benefits communication policy

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