Human Resources

The Four C’s of Employee Engagement

Educate employees about the value of their benefits package.

March 29, 2012
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Your credit union may offer a competitive, comprehensive group benefits package, but if your employees don’t see the value in their benefits, what’s the point?

Too often, the only thing employees think about when it comes to their employee benefits package is the steadily increasing amount taken out of their paychecks.

Think about the potential opportunity for human resources (HR) to make a difference and better engage their employees in their benefits.

You can do so with these four critical C’s:

1. Communication

A 2011 CUNA Mutual Group survey of more than 400 credit union benefits decision makers found that only 16% said they communicate with employees about benefits more than quarterly.

The largest respondent group, 43%, communicates two to four times per year, and 37% do so only once per year.

It’s easy to suggest communicating more frequently, but the real issue is what and how to effectively communicate.

Communication is a two-way process. Ask employees what benefits interest them and how they prefer to receive benefits information.

Conduct surveys, formal or informal. Rather than open-ended questions, ask employees to choose from a list of topics, such as:

  • Elements of your group benefits program that generate the most questions, concerns, and misunderstandings;
  • Under-used benefits or services, especially those regarding wellness and prevention. Solicit and share employee success stories; and
  • Material from providers and brokers that help employees properly use services, file claims, etc.

Finally, keep messages brief and conversational—avoid stiff, overly technical “HR speak”—and consider professional writing services or coaching for HR communicators.

2. Choice

The more options you give employees to tailor their benefits, the more engaged they will be. Improve benefit choices without increasing your credit union’s cost by offering voluntary (a.k.a. employee-owned or “worksite”) insurance options.

Common voluntary policies include whole life, critical illness, supplemental health, long-term care, and cancer insurance. These often provide lump sums employees can use for any noncovered expenses relating to loss.

In the survey referenced earlier, only 22% of the participants said employees at their credit unions were highly engaged with their employee benefits program.

However, 41% of credit unions with highly engaged employees offered voluntary benefits while only 30% of credit unions where employees are less engaged offer them.

3. Cost-value

This concept expands choice by having employees more actively manage their health insurance costs. For example, offer employees the option to pair a high-deductible health plan with a health reimbursement account, or use a health savings account to pay out-of-pocket costs while reducing taxable income.

These are not one-size-fits-all programs—employees must make informed decisions and become more active consumers.

4. Confidence

Nothing dampens employees’ engagement more than feeling powerless to resolve glitches or disputes with benefits providers. Employees need to believe they have recourse—and they need to know how to get it.

HR staffs that offer employee advocacy are an excellent first line of defense. But credit unions should also provide online resources that answer common employee questions and offer user-friendly procedures for logging complaints or submitting questions.

If your benefits partner or broker has a dedicated advocacy center (via phone, online, or both), be sure employees know about it.

These four critical Cs should be part of your credit union’s annual strategic planning.

It’s easy to focus entirely on comparing plan providers, details, and cost. However, it’s just as important to give employees a better grasp of the true costs—and true advantages—of their employee benefit packages.

MIKE ROCHE is an employee benefits sales specialist with CUNA Mutual Group. He'll discuss how to simplify human capital management during the CUNA Human Resources/Training & Development Council Conference, April 18-21 in San Antonio. Contact him at 800-356-2644, ext. 6654265.

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Great article! Unfortunately, most employees don’t feel valued or appreciated by their supervisors or employers. In fact, research has shown that the predominant reason team members quit their jobs is because they don’t feel valued. This is in spite of the fact that employee recognition programs have proliferated in the workplace – over 90% of all organizations in the U.S. has some form of employee recognition activities in place. But most employee recognition programs are viewed with skepticism and cynicism – because they aren’t viewed as being genuine in their communication of appreciation. Getting the “employee of the month” award, receiving a certificate of recognition, or a “Way to go, team!” email just don’t get the job done. How do you communicate authentic appreciation? We have found people have different ways that they want to be shown appreciation, and if you don’t communicate in the language of appreciation important to them, you essentially “miss the mark”. Additionally, employees need to receive recognition more than once a year at their performance review. Otherwise, they view the praise as “going through the motions”. A third component of authentic appreciation is that the communication has to be about them personally – not the department, not their group, but something they did. Finally, they have to believe that you mean what you say. How you treat them has to match the words you use. If you are not sure how your team members want to be shown appreciation, the Motivating By Appreciation Inventory ( will identify the language of appreciation and specific actions preferred by each employee. You then can create a group profile for your team, so everyone knows how to encourage one another. Remember, employees want to know that they are valued for what they contribute to the success of the organization. And communicating authentic appreciation in the ways they desire it can make the difference between keeping your quality team members or having a negative work environment that everyone wants to leave. Paul White, Ph.D., is the co-author of The 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace with Dr. Gary Chapman.

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