Engaged Employees Make the Most of Their Benefit Plans

Less than 25% of CU employees are ‘highly engaged’ in their use of benefits.

November 18, 2011

It’s easy to look at a spreadsheet and see the impact of employee benefits in dollars and staff hours spent. But the true impact of these benefits can be seen more clearly through healthy, effective, loyal employees.

The challenge is engaging employees so they understand and use their benefits fully. Less than one-quarter of credit unions are meeting that challenge, according to CUNA Mutual Group’s 2011 Benefits Survey, which gathered data from roughly 400 credit union human resources (HR) decision makers.

Asked to rate how engaged their employees were in understanding, electing, and wisely using their benefits, 22% of respondents rated their employees as “highly engaged.” Almost two-thirds gave moderate ratings.

The survey results suggest a few key tactics for improving employees’ engagement in their benefit plans.

Tactic 1: More personal and frequent communications

Of the survey respondents, 82% said the most effective way to communicate benefits was through group meetings (46%) or one-on-one meetings (36%).

When asked which communication methods their credit unions actually used, only 51% cited group meetings (40%) or one-on-one meetings (11%).

Only 6% said communicating solely through email or Web was effective, yet 30% said that was their credit union’s method.

Some of this inconsistency can be explained by the weight of responses from larger credit unions, which tend to rely more on electronic than personal communications.

Even so, credit unions of any size should assess whether they can foster better understanding about benefits through personal communication from HR staff, supervisors, and third-party benefit partners.

Tactic 2: Make better use of available resources

A subset of respondents rated the value of certain CUNA Mutual Group benefits resources they’d used. Credit unions where employees were rated “highly engaged” in benefits were far more likely to rate the services “very valuable” than credit unions where employees were moderately engaged or less.

For example, half of credit unions with highly engaged employees rated CUNA Mutual Group’s web portal with HR tools, templates, and alerts as “very valuable,” compared to 28% of credit unions with less-engaged employees.

Again, this group of respondents was smaller than the full survey group, so the results shouldn’t be weighed as heavily. Nevertheless, if your credit union isn’t making the most of tis partners’ value-added services, chances are you can use them to better inform and serve employees.

Tactic 3: Consider offering voluntary insurance options

Of credit unions with highly engaged employees, 41% offer voluntary benefits, compared to 30% of credit unions with less-engaged employees.

Voluntary benefits are generally those that employees purchase and own, which makes the benefit portable.

The most common voluntary benefit options include a variety of insurance products:

  • Cancer insurance (50%);
  • Term or whole life (40%);
  • Critical illness (38%);
  • Disability (32%);
  • Supplemental health (27%); and
  • Long-term care (22%).

Employees are naturally more engaged in choosing and paying for specific products themselves, based on their specific needs.

The survey results are from a 2011 email survey of about 400 credit unions of mixed sizes that have at least 21 full-time employees. Emails were targeted to HR decision makers. About 40% of respondents were CUNA Mutual Group Benefits customers.

DAVID MARTIN is director of employee benefits for CUNA Mutual Group. Contact him at 800-356-2644, ext. 7259.