How to Make Your Employee Benefits Program More Accessible

As a human resources (HR) professional, your job is filled with responsibilities. A key aspect of these is designing and maintaining the employee benefits program. No matter the size of the business, the efforts you make to establish and communicate benefits for staff can make a positive difference. This applies to both their day-to-day jobs and their personal lives. As such, it is vital to ensure that your benefits program is easily accessible to all employees. Regardless of their position, health challenges, location, or socioeconomic status.

But how can you best go about doing this? Let’s review a few methods and strategies you can employ to make certain your program reaches everyone it should.

Understand the Needs of Your Workers

Whether you’re designing a new benefits plan or reviewing its efficacy, you need to gain an understanding of who your workers are. Your employees are individuals in their own rights, and each will face a combination of common and personal challenges in their lives. As such, you can make the most impact when you take time to truly understand what your workers face, and adjust your benefits plan to address this.

The most effective approach here is by talking to the staff directly. This should be one on one— perhaps through line managers in monthly evaluations — but also a wider anonymous survey can be useful. Encourage employees to be honest about what aspects of the workplace they find challenging. What do they face personally that they feel the company could help with, and what elements of the current benefits package are lacking? This can not only open up ideas about where changes need to be made. It also gives you insights into how much of the current program is accessible to and understood by workers.

Also, look at the shape of your workforce to establish where roadblocks to certain benefits currently are. If you have a remote workforce for instance, which despite the Philippines having slow internet speeds, has grown during the pandemic, it’s important to evaluate whether your benefits are suitable for these workers. Employees in distant locations may not be able to access inner-city medical facilities. The same goes for experiencing mobility disabilities. Therefore, providing access to telemedical services can be an appropriate adjustment. This is an increasingly practical and safe way for employees to connect with doctors and specialists. Even some vision exams can be performed over video calls. The majority of patients also find that there is no drop in quality compared to in-person appointments. When you take time to look at where hurdles to benefits lie, it is easier to find the right solutions.

Be Flexible

When you are working to ensure that your benefits program is accessible, it is important to recognize that your program can’t be rigid. Workers are likely to face challenges in their lives that are unexpected. As we’ve seen during the COVID-19 pandemic, health emergencies can shake up people’s lives and alter their ability to function at home and work. Be open to being flexible with certain types of benefits — sick pay, family time off — depending on the circumstance. You don’t have to go this alone, either, you’ll often find that some issues are supported by government schemes. Due to the recent outbreak, for instance, the Department of Labor and Economics (DOLE) increased its compensation fund. This helps companies to ensure their workers get paid in the event of sickness, injuries, or death at work.

It’s not just the provision of benefits that should be flexible, but also how workers can access them. The shape of the workplace is in a state of development, with current events creating changes that may well be long-term. It may be the case that workers are remote, or perhaps the HR department itself is. In either case, there needs to be a more agile approach to managing how the workforce requests and obtains information about benefits. Wherever your team is located you can best manage the situation by establishing clear lines of communication at all times. Make sure that employees know that the benefits channels are more open. They should be able to put in requests through email, Slack channels, and perhaps even video meetings.

Don’t allow operational changes to disrupt the culture that your company has worked hard to build. Keep everyone connected to the support they deserve whenever they need it.

Keep Employees Informed

An aspect of benefit accessibility that is often overlooked is how well-informed about perks workers are. It is too often assumed that all employees can understand how the system works simply because it is written down in the employee handbook. The truth is, the structure of some aspects is very complex. Indeed there may be those among your staff who find it more difficult to grasp some concepts via the written word alone.

As an HR professional, it can be wise to assume from the outset that all employees need benefits explicitly explained to them. Take time to check in with workers during onboarding, and ask whether there are any elements of the benefits plan that they are unclear on. It can also be helpful to go beyond providing documentation. Take time to create a simple video guide to how the system works. Give step-by-step instructions with graphic examples. This enables greater understanding for those who learn better through visual explanations.

Whenever changes occur, be proactive about establishing employee understanding. Make sure there are channels for any queries. This should extend to when workers are leaving the organization, too. Forgotten retirement accounts are an all-too-common issue in this regard. Lack of employee knowledge about what they have and in what forms has resulted in a significant build-up of unused equity for workers. This also creates additional administrative costs for businesses. Whether you’re using personal equity and retirement accounts (PERAs) for local workers, or are contributing to 401(k)s for U.S.-based remote workers, you need to make sure that clear information and transfer of retirement benefits is part of the exit procedure.

Conclusion

Making your employee benefits program more accessible is an ethical responsibility. It also impacts worker satisfaction. Take the time to establish what challenges to access your workers have and be open to applying flexibility that can help them cope in tough times. This, alongside ensuring an understanding of how the program operates can make certain your workers get the most out of your efforts. In turn, you get the most out of them.

Jori Hamilton