Face-to-face counseling helps employees grasp benefits

by Rich Williams

On average, 30% to 40% of an employee’s total compensation is wrapped up in benefits. Unfortunately, that information is often invisible to employees, so they may not fully appreciate or understand just how much your company “pays” them beyond a salary.

This becomes crystal clear during open enrollment, when so many employees simply stick with the benefits they had last year because they don’t know what they’re missing. But you shouldn’t wait for open enrollment.

Explain benefits in person

The most effective way to make sure employees really know about the benefits you offer, their value and why they’re a great deal is to tell them face-to-face.

An in-person benefits counseling session gives you the opportunity to bring to the attention of each employee the value of benefits like parking, the company wellness center, subsidized snacks and other perks that employees might not realize you already pay for.

BP Handbook D

It’s also a chance to explain an employee’s health plans choices and detail the list of voluntary benefits employees may buy at reduced rates through your organization. More important, the face-to-face session can be individualized so employees understand how their need for certain benefits fluctuates when they start a family, send the kids to college, take in elderly parents or prep for retirement.

It’s during this session that employees can seek answers to questions they might not know how to look up online—or might not bother to. And it’s here that the counselor can fire up a laptop and show the employee the actual dollar-value contribution the employer is making for each benefit.

More clarity, better retention

Bringing all of that to light could persuade a good employee who’s teetering between leaving and sticking around to decide it’s worth it to stay put.

When considering job offers from two companies with comparable salaries, after all, 62% of employees say benefits are important enough to influence an employment decision. In one study, employee benefits ranked higher on job-seekers’ list of priorities than paid leave, salary increases, work environment and location.

And in a Colonial Life survey of 5,000 employees who met with a counselor, 97% said it improved their understanding of their benefits.

If you work with a benefits provider, arrange with it to conduct face-to-face benefits counseling sessions for you.

Your provider should be able to offer benefits counseling at no charge. It stands to make money, so neither you nor your employees should have to pay.

Tips for face-to-face meetings

Do a hard sell. Don’t just tell employees the face-to-face sessions are available if they want to participate. Instead, impress on all staff that they need to participate.

Require employees to enroll in benefits through the counselor. That enrollment can’t happen until after a face-to-face counseling session.

Participate in counselor training. Your provider will conduct training for its counselors. Make sure you are there so they understand your company’s culture. (For example, what do you call your employees: associates or employees? The counselors should use your language during the sessions.) This also is your opportunity to make sure counselors are ready to cover all of your company’s benefits during the sessions—and not just the voluntary benefits they’re selling.

Request ongoing, year-round sessions. Don’t limit your benefits communication to open season.

Insist on personalized benefits statements. Coun­se­lors give each employee an individualized statement that shows the cost of each perk and how much the company pays for it. Employees who see their benefits package all at once during a counseling session will walk away with a better understanding of their total compensation. That understanding can mean the difference between accepting a competitor’s job offer and staying with—and appreciating—the jobs they already have.


Author: Rich Williams is VP of premier client services with Colonial Life. Contact him at (803) 678-6440 or RWilliams@ColonialLife.com.