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Keep the Human Touch in Benefits Communications


Technology enables employers to distribute benefits information rapidly to employees. From apps to online portals, and from emails to text messages, employees can access benefits data with just the click of a button.

Along with transmitting materials electronically, digital solutions help employees better manage their benefits. Employees can, for example, apply for paid time off, enroll in benefits and update their benefits information online.

Although employees welcome all the gadgetry, they also want human interactions. According to a 2018 survey by PricewaterhouseCoopers, employees prefer that common HR tasks, including benefits management, be 50% digital and 50% face-to-face.

Next are three advantages of making the human touch should be part of your benefits communication strategy.

1. A gateway to meaningful dialogue.

In a 2020 survey by the Employee Benefit Research Institute (EBRI), nearly 73% of employees found their health benefits easy to understand, compared to 67% who said their retirement benefits were and 60% who said their other non-health benefits were.

Those are respectable numbers. But no matter how well you communicate benefits electronically, some employees will have questions and will want a human response. This human interaction does not always have to be face-to-face. It can, for example, take place by phone or video, as is normal for remote employees.

Human interactions allow employees to address issues that are most important to them and can provide deeper insight into how employees feel about their benefits. This dialogue can be instrumental to improving your benefits offerings, processes and procedures. Also, certain initiatives are simply tailor-made for human interactions, such as benefits consultation or launching a new benefits program.

2. A compliant benefits program, guided by human expertise.

Complying with benefits laws remains an ongoing challenge for employers. Typically, these laws include:

  • Federal Insurance and Contributions Act (FICA) — for Social Security and Medicare.
  • Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA).
  • Affordable Care Act (ACA).
  • Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA).
  • Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA).
  • Workers' compensation guidelines.
  • Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO).
  • Department of Labor (DOL) standards.
  • Internal Revenue Service (IRS) rules.
  • State and local mandates.

Technology can simplify compliance and help you avoid penalties and fines. For instance, health and welfare plan sponsors must give participants specific notices — and technology can make this process easier to handle. However, human expertise is needed to ensure the rules are properly interpreted, applied, monitored and communicated.

3. A flexible approach to benefits communication.

Not all employees absorb or comprehend information in the same way. For this reason, the most effective benefits strategies offer multiple communication channels, such as print materials, digital tools and person-to-person interactions (whether face-to-face or remote). Employees are likely to appreciate having different options, including human support.

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Our firm provides the information in this e-newsletter for general guidance only, and does not constitute the provision of legal advice, tax advice, accounting services, investment advice, or professional consulting of any kind. The information provided herein should not be used as a substitute for consultation with professional tax, accounting, legal, or other competent advisers. Before making any decision or taking any action, you should consult a professional adviser who has been provided with all pertinent facts relevant to your particular situation. The information is provided "as is," with no assurance or guarantee of completeness, accuracy, or timeliness of the information, and without warranty of any kind, express or implied, including but not limited to warranties of performance, merchantability, and fitness for a particular purpose.
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