Blog 7/18/2019

Manufacturers: Four Barriers to a Successful Benefits Strategy and How to Overcome Them

When it comes to manufacturing, employees tend to fall into one of three categories: corporate/HQ employees, manufacturing plant employees, and distribution employees, such as truck drivers. These different workers create a unique set of barriers for manufacturing employers when it comes to communicating about benefits, including:

  • Limited (or no) computer access during the workday
  • Geographically dispersed work locations
  • Differing work schedules
  • Language barriers

What’s the solution? Combining three types of communication tools—paper, personal and phone—to reach your employees where they are on a timely basis.

Read on to learn more.

Common Barriers
1. Limited/no computer access

While corporate-based employees will likely be using computers as part of their day to day jobs, plant workers spend their days operating machinery and managing production and packaging, while truck drivers are spending most of their day driving in their vehicles. As a result, email messaging, online portals, and websites won’t reach large percentages of your workforce during the workday.

2. Geographically dispersed store locations

Whether you have just a few manufacturing plants spread across a small area or hundreds or thousands of plants and distribution centers across the entire United States, it can be a challenge to ensure that all of your benefits-eligible employees are receiving the same information about their benefits, delivered in the same way.

3. Different working hours

While corporate office staff may work a Monday-Friday, 9 AM – 5 PM schedule, your plants, and distribution centers are likely operating on a more extended schedule, possibly even 24/7. Plant employees and drivers may work later hours, including overnight shifts, or even weekends. The result? You never have all your employees at work at the same time, which adds further complexity to your benefits communications strategy.

4. Language barriers

It’s possible that not every employee in your workforce speaks English as their first language. If this is the case, these employees may need assistance in understanding benefits materials.

Solutions

To reach such a diverse workforce, you’ll need to employ both traditional and more modern communications tools and channels. For example:

  • Paper: Use in-office and in-plant signage in employee areas to remind employees about upcoming benefits events and deadlines. Posters, table tents, and yes, even flyers in bathroom stalls can be used for quick educational messages or to drive employees to websites or mobile apps for more information. Truck drivers are a bit trickier to reach this way, but you can put these notices on pre-recorded CDs or podcast recordings that they can play while driving.

You can also mail benefits materials to your employees’ homes. Spouses may also be interested in the materials, thus allowing the whole family to make informed benefits choices.

  • Personal: Choosing and using a benefits package can be incredibly personal. To reach your employees, create opportunities for interaction with a person. Where possible, schedule in-office and in-plant benefits meetings and discussions before or after shifts. Besides, add Benefits Educators to the mix. Educators can meet with employees one-on-one, either in-person or via telephone, to answer benefit questions and help with enrollment. Since educators are trained on your company’s benefits, employees will receive consistent messaging regardless of location or work schedule.

Also, make sure plant and distribution management gets a heads up about any future communications so you can enlist them in encouraging employees to pay attention.

  • Phone: The average American checks their phone 80 times per day. A growing share of Americans uses smartphones as their primary way to access the internet at home. Studies forecast that in just over five years, 72% of people will access the internet only through their smartphones. Therefore, encourage employees to sign up for benefits notices via text or personal email (if they don’t get a corporate email account). This will be particularly helpful for plant employees or truck drivers who are rarely or never near computers throughout their day.

Communications can make or break your benefits strategy. When communications are deemed “effective,” 76 percent of employees report being satisfied with their benefits, and 74 percent say they’re loyal to their employer, as opposed to only 6 percent satisfaction with benefits and 34 percent saying they’re loyal to their employer when benefits are deemed “ineffective.” Creating a communications plan that accounts for differences in how and when your employees receive information ensures that they find out what they need to know when they need to know it. By doing so, they can choose the best plan that both reduces their costs while maximizing their satisfaction with their benefits.
Want more information on how your company can support its manufacturing employees in their benefits adventure?

Check out DirectPath’s manufacturing information sheet here.

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