What’s in It for Me? The Importance of Making Employee Benefits Plain and Simple

What’s in It for Me? The Importance of Making Employee Benefits Plain and Simple

Standard insurance industry language can make employee benefits hard to understand. Help your workers better relate to their benefit choices by creating plain enrollment messaging with them uniquely in mind.
Adam Krawiec
Adam Krawiec, Head of Customer and Broker Services for Group Benefits, The Hartford
Avoiding unpleasant things is human nature - like filing taxes or cleaning out the refrigerator. But enrolling in benefits at work? For some people, this is the last thing they want to even think about.
“Choosing insurance can be stressful and overwhelming,” says Adam Krawiec, head of customer and broker services for Group Benefits at The Hartford. “Some workers are concerned about making the wrong choice or not knowing enough about the benefits to make such important decisions.”
In fact, The Hartford’s research found that 55% of U.S. workers admit that they should know more about their employee benefits beyond medical, dental and vision than they currently do. Some people say they prefer not to think about their benefits at all and avoid reading emails about open enrollment. While others (30%) just automatically select the same benefits they chose the year before.1 But if they’ve had life changes over the past year, like getting married, having a baby or suffering from a serious illness, are those benefits still the best fit for their individual needs?
“These benefits are there to help working Americans protect their paycheck and stay healthy and productive in the workplace,” Krawiec says. “So, it’s important to help employers communicate about benefits in new ways that really resonate with workers and get them to see how these benefits can fit their individual needs. We want workers to think differently about the benefits they’ve seen for years.”

Grouping and Reframing: Strategies To Help Simplify Employee Benefits

During enrollment, workers spend most of their time selecting health insurance plans. They often don’t put the same time and effort into thinking about the rest of their employer’s benefit offerings, such as life and supplemental health benefits.2 These benefits help protect an employee’s income and may keep them from dipping into their savings to pay for unexpected costs. The benefits support the worker and those who depend on them by paying cash in the event of injuries, illness and death.
“Simpler, easily understood descriptions help people see how these benefits can protect them and their loved ones in their daily lives.” Krawiec says.
The Hartford is changing the way we talk about benefits, helping employers group benefits by common themes and using descriptions that show how these employee benefits actually work. For example, grouping supplemental health benefits and placing them near the health insurance choices in enrollment communications can be very educational for employees. It can help them “connect the dots” to see how the cash benefits could fill gaps left by medical insurance after an illness or accident. 

A Simple Look at Employee Benefits and What They Do

Employee Benefits Education Matters
employee benefit programs
of U.S. workers say they should know more about their employee benefits beyond medical, dental and vision than they currently do.1
employee education benefits
of U.S. workers are "rollers," typically rolling over the same benefit choices they made the previous year.1
Grouping employee benefits by common themes can help show why and how they matter to employees.
Supplemental Health Benefits
employee health benefit
Accidental injury benefits
Also known as accident insurance.
Provides a cash benefit for an accidental injury.
Critical illness benefits
Also known as critical illness insurance.
Provides a cash benefit for a covered illness.
Hospital cash benefits
Also known as hospital indemnity insurance.
Provides a cash benefit for each day you or your dependent stays in the hospital.
Income Protection
employee benefits
Short-term income protection benefits
Also known as short-term disability insurance.
Replaces part of your income if you're unable to work due to childbirth, illness or injury.
Long-term income protection benefits
Also known as long-term disability insurance.
Helps cover your day-to-day living expenses when you're not able to work for an extended time due to injury or illness.
Life and Loss
what do employee benefits include
Seguro de vida
Protection for those you will leave behind, with a cash benefit that can help pay for final plans and offset the loss of future income.
Accidental loss of life and severe injury benefits
Also known as accidental death and dismemberment insurance.
Covers you for an accidental loss of motion, sight, limb or life.
1 The Hartford 2022 Future of Benefits Pulse Survey conducted July 26-28, 2022, viewed February 2023.

Comfort Zone: Focus on the Positive, Shorter Is Better

Grouping and plainly describing what the benefits actually do could help some workers overcome the negative or confusing reactions to the traditional names these benefits have had for years in the industry.
“When workers can’t understand their benefit choices, there’s a chance they won’t select them or use them even if selected,” Krawiec says.
Some examples of common misconceptions highlighted by The Hartford’s consumer research include: 3
  • Accidental death and dismemberment insurance sounds scary. “This isn’t something people want to think about,” says one consumer respondent.
  • Hospital indemnity insurance is confusing. “This sounds like insurance that hospitals have to protect them from patients suing them,” says another consumer.  
  • Accident insurance is misunderstood. A research participant suggests that it "refers to treatment if you’re in a car accident.” Another consumer thought it just “covers vehicle repairs and driver liability.”
Enrollment messaging should help employees understand how benefits are relevant to their unique lifestyles. Storytelling and examples that use short, simple sentences are easy to understand. And it’s not all about words. Employers should consider using illustrations, images and videos that highlight inclusion and show that these benefits are for everyone.

A Message That Matters

Before the next benefits enrollment season, employers should think about changing the message. It does make a difference. The Hartford’s research found that when workers really understand their benefits, they can make informed choices that best meet their needs. Reacting to a clearer explanation of how hospital indemnity insurance pays a cash benefit, one respondent replies, “This is crucial to someone who may have just left the hospital worrying about how they're going to take care of the bills.”
At some point in life, just about everybody can relate to that.
1 The Hartford 2022 Future of Benefits Pulse Survey conducted July 26-28, 2022, viewed February 2023.
2 Supplemental Health products (Accident, Critical Illness and Hospital Indemnity, etc) are independent and do not coordinate with any other health coverage.
3 A Survey was fielded in The Hartford’s Group Benefits Consumer Research Community January 24 – January 30, 2022.
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