Despite strong efforts, only 19% of employers believe their employees have a high level of understanding their benefits

 BROOKFIELD, WI – Educating employees about their benefits is a high priority for 65% of organizations—Nearly two in five organizations have budgets specifically devoted to benefits communication and 25% are planning to increase those budgets in 2016. The International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans Benefits Communication Survey Results report revealed that, despite prioritizing benefits communication, only 19% of employers say their employees have a high level of understanding their benefits.

The reason employers say benefits understanding is so low is because most participants do not open/read materials (80% of organizations reported this), almost half don't understand the materials, and participants do not perceive value in their benefits (31%).

To bridge the understanding gap, employers are using various communication platforms to get the word out including: 

  • Educational materials printed and mailed to homes—89%
  • Email—73%
  • Printed and distributed on site—69%
  • Internal websites—66%
  • External websites—58%

Less than half of organizations use nontraditional communication platforms like video (29%), social media (23%), texts (10%), robocalls (9%) or games (7%). Organizations most commonly communicate to their employees about retirement (74%), health care (74%) and wellness/mental health (72%). ​

To further promote benefits education within their organization, employers are examining different delivery methods for communication materials and finding the highest success rates with:

  • Communicating by life stage (parental leave, retirement planning, etc.)–81% success
  • Year-round communication–79% success
  • Leveraging word of ​mouth by relying on their own employees to help spread the word–75% success
  • Communicating in multiple languages—74% success
  • Simplifying complicated benefits content—72% success 

"Benefits are a vital part of employees' lives, in and out of the workplace," said Julie Stich, CEBS, research director at the International Foundation. "It's crucial that employees understand both their value and how they work. Employers see the need to simplify complicated benefits content, and to communicate in different languages and to multiple generations."

Moving forward, the top organizational goals for benefits communication are helping participants better understand and use their benefits (89%), getting individuals to understand the value of benefits (52%) and helping participants make smarter personal health and/or finance decisions (49%).

For more information and to read the full survey report, visit Survey responses were received from 341 members. Of the total, 264 or 77% of responses were from U.S. organizations (23% Canadian). Surveys were received from multiemployer benefit plans (42%), single-employers/corporations (35%) and public/governmental plans (23%).


The International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans is the premier educational organization dedicated to providing the diverse employee benefits community with objective, solution-oriented education, research and information to ensure the health and financial security of plan beneficiaries worldwide. The Foundation has more than 33,000 multiemployer, corporate and public sector members representing over 25 million lives. For additional information, visit