Poor benefits take-up? How to tell if it’s communications or culture causing the problem
As organisations and society at large come around to the idea that employee wellbeing is essential to the overall health of individual employees and industry, many companies are ramping up their benefits.
But encouraging engagement with benefits can present a challenge, especially when companies aren’t aware of what exactly is keeping employees from signing up for, and actually using services.
While every organisation is different, take-up problems tend to fall into two main categories: communications (a relatively easy fix) or problems with culture (which requires more work).
Signs your problem stems from communications
Finding out if communication is what’s behind poor benefits take-up means asking a few questions. This can be done informally or by requesting feedback in a meeting or an anonymous survey, but if most seem unaware of the benefit – or its function – signs point to problems with your rollout and communications.
When adding benefits, it’s crucial to tell your employees. Make sure they understand what the resource is, how to access it and how it can help them.
Cover function, access and potential benefits in your messaging when you first roll out a new resource, but also periodically – perhaps on a bimonthly or quarterly basis. This helps ensure that as employees’ circumstances and care requirements change over time, they’re reminded of what’s available to support them.
A comprehensive benefits guide, with information on how to access and use the benefits, should be available to all employees and reviewed with new joiners.
You can also link communications with organisational initiatives, for example, when promoting a return to the office, use the opportunity to raise awareness of cycle-to-work schemes.
Another key consideration? Looking at your data, ie open rate, click rate and engagement. If your employees aren’t opening your benefits communications, perhaps you need to revise the message style or frequency of what’s sent out. No tools to track this info? It may be time to revisit how you’re sending out your comms.
Red flags that point to culture as the culprit
If, after doing some research, signs point to your employees being aware of benefits that could help them … but not using them (and not really wanting to talk about them), it’s likely that your organisational culture might be a barrier to success, at least in part. Why? Because for employees to feel comfortable accessing benefits and sharing their experiences, they must have a foundation of trust. They need to feel confident they won’t be judged or penalised for struggling or using a benefit. That won’t happen in a company culture that doesn’t clearly and consistently prioritise and protect employee wellbeing.
Mental health benefits are especially susceptible to low take-up. When employees don’t see the company talking about mental health and taking action to support wellbeing, they’re less likely to share or seek out assistance, even if it’s included in their benefits package.
Furthermore, if managers do not feel comfortable talking about stress in the workplace, they are not likely to share the latest mental health support options with their direct team.
Companies can eliminate some barriers with discreet, easily accessible options like app-based mental health support. But to impact take-up on a larger scale, they’ll need to create (and carry out) a plan to embed mental health and wellbeing into organisational culture.
Steps to building a culture that prioritises mental health
Gathering data on where your company is at is a logical next step. This step may be complicated if your organisational culture has been one of ‘keep calm and carry on’. If collecting feedback on mental health and benefits is too big a leap given engagement levels in your workplace, skip to the next, potentially most important step.
Train leadership (from C-suite through line managers) to spot potential mental health struggles and offer practical tools to help employees build resilience before they’re needed. As in health generally, prevention is more effective and economical than any cure. According to Deloitte’s latest Mental Health and employers report, there’s a 6.3:1 ROI for screening, aka preventative measures and a 6:1 ROI for training.
Employers must also take the time to educate their employees how to support themselves and each other and encourage them to leverage benefits (EAPs, app-based wellbeing, teletherapy) to manage their mental health.
For more on how to help protect and prioritise employee mental health wellbeing at your organisation, download our report Mental health and the employee experience: The business case
In partnership with Koa Health
At Koa Health, we believe digital mental health solutions are the answer to mental health issues.