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Employee compensation is the single largest expense for many businesses, and a third of that cost goes to providing competitive employee benefits—on average, $11.55 per employee per hour.1 That cost makes sense when those benefits keep your employees stable and healthy or retain valuable talent. After all, benefits are the third-highest factor contributing to job satisfaction2—attractive benefits make people more likely to want to work for you, and more likely to stay with you. But are you getting what you think you’re paying for?

Our Resource Navigators see it again and again. The employers who partner with us are companies who value their workforce and invest in comprehensive employee benefits. They offer a range of insurance, employee assistance programs, and health savings accounts. But when we sit down with an employee struggling with bills or coping with stressful circumstances, that’s often news to them. Consider this: 97% of employers pay the cost of an EAP for their employees, but fewer than 1 in 10 workers have ever used one.3

So how do you get your employees to make the most of the benefits you provide them? Here are the strategies WorkLife Resource Navigators recommend:

Stagger Employee Orientation

If you’re giving new employees everything they need to know about their benefits in a single meeting in their first few days, they’re already drowning in information overload. Breaking their orientation out into a number of meetings spread over their first few weeks or even months gives them the chance to absorb all the details on what services you offer and how they can use them.

Behavioral Nudges

Along with an orientation or annual review, consider giving employees regular reminders to take advantage of their benefits. This strategy can be particularly effective if it’s tied to calendar events, like reminding employees to replace their glasses before their vision benefits expire or sharing out your EAP number during a stressful busy season. Help them make the connection between their needs and how their benefits can help.

Use Different Formats

For a lot of people, that fat folder of brochures is confusing and overwhelming, and it’s going straight to the bottom of a drawer. Different people learn in different ways, so the more ways you can say it, the more likely it will get through. Try sending emails or text, posting information in break rooms, and having supervisors explain an underused benefit in a staff meeting. If you want to get really proactive, offer your employees a small reward for referring coworkers—the people who use your benefits can be their best spokespeople.

Offer Individual Consultations

Benefits like life insurance, tax-deductible savings accounts, and especially health insurance can be hard for even HR professionals to translate. Employees may struggle to understand what each service covers, how it works, and especially how it will apply to them personally. Taking the time to sit down with employees and help them answer those questions can be the best way to be sure they’re using those benefits to their best advantage, but many HR departments may not have the time to offer that kind of service. Resource Navigators can partner with HR to step in and provide employees a personalized education on what benefits they can use and how.

Survey Regularly

If you don’t already know how well your employee utilize their benefits, that’s the best place to start. Regular employee pulse surveys are a great way to find out what benefits they know about, which they’ve used, and how helpful they found them. You can also dig into their levels of satisfaction and engagement, if there are different benefits they’d value more, or how you compare to other employers in your community. Pulse surveys give you the data to confirm you’re making the best decisions for your employees and investing smartly in your workforce, giving you the best chance at recruiting and retaining top talent.