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7 Reasons Your Employees Aren’t Utilizing Their Voluntary Benefits & What You Can Do About It

Voluntary benefits are a valuable resource for employees, but employers must take proactive steps to ensure they’re being utilized.


Did you invest big in a new employee program or service that’s as popular as working late on a Friday? Perhaps your new offering was performing well initially, but a significant drop-off recently occurred.

In either case, a benefits failure is disheartening, but get ready to dust yourself off and get back on your proverbial horse because we’re bringing you the seven most common reasons employees don’t utilize voluntary benefits, plus we’ll reveal how you can turn this unfortunate scenario around.


1. Lack of Awareness

Lack of awareness is one of the biggest reasons new benefit offerings fail. For employees to adopt a new service or program, they need to know its value and availability. Without these things, even the best benefit can go belly up.

Suppose your team presented a new offering during open enrollment season and didn’t follow up with a multi-touch awareness campaign that clarified the benefit. In this case, a finely tuned marketing strategy may be the only thing standing between you and higher utilization rates.


2. Lack of Value

Employees won’t utilize their voluntary benefits if they don’t see their value. Therefore, employers should consider offering relevant, timely benefits that address employees’ immediate needs. For example, employers could offer counseling services or employee assistance programs if employees are concerned about mental health. Similarly, employers could offer a 401(k) matching program if employees are worried about retirement savings.


3. Limited Communication


It’s not enough to provide information about benefits; employers should also ensure that the information is clear, concise and easy to understand.

This can be achieved through employee workshops, training sessions and personalized communications that explain the value of each benefit and how it can be used to support employees’ individual needs.

You may have started with decent utilization rates, but they’ve dropped off, and you’re wondering if you chose the wrong benefit.

What’s more likely is that time-strapped employees need to be reminded of the benefit, even if they found it incredibly useful.

Incorporating new resources into our lives and getting in the habit of using them is no easy feat — this is why continuous communication is also critical; you want to keep your new voluntary benefits at the forefront of your employees’ minds.


4. Lack of Personalization

Voluntary benefits will only be utilized if they meet each employee’s unique needs and preferences. One-size-fits-all benefit packages may not appeal to all employees, particularly if they don’t align with their specific health or financial goals.

Employers should consider offering various benefits catering to different employee demographics and lifestyles. This could include wellness programs, flexible work arrangements and financial counseling services, among others.


5. Difficult to Access

Employees may be less likely to participate if the enrollment process for voluntary benefits is overly complex or time-consuming.

For instance, EAPs are notoriously inaccessible and difficult to navigate; as a result, their utilization average falls below 10%.

Ease of use is among the most important factors to consider when adopting a new benefit. Employers should streamline enrollment by providing user-friendly digital platforms or simplifying paperwork requirements. Employers can also offer assistance or guidance to employees who may be struggling to navigate the enrollment process.


6. Cost

Another utilization killer is cost. There is a slew of voluntary benefits in which part of the cost can be offloaded to employees through fees. While this may cut costs for your organization, it can also significantly cut the utilization rate. Even a small fee, which most likely all your employees can afford, will reduce participation.

Some will perceive the offering as an additional cost they can do without. Others will label it a luxury or a nice-to-have but not a must-have. And some will resent that they’re being asked to invest in a benefit they think should be free of charge.


7. Mismatched Benefits

If you’ve marketed the benefit, conveyed its value, and consistently communicated with your employees about it but saw no increase in utilization, this is a strong sign that you’ve selected a benefit that doesn’t align with workers’ wants.

To ensure your company’s next benefit offering meets your employees’ needs, survey them before investing so you have a better understanding of the type of assistance your workers want.


Voluntary benefits can provide a valuable resource for employees, but employers must take proactive steps to ensure that employees are utilizing them effectively. By addressing the seven common reasons why employees may not be utilizing their voluntary benefits, employers can create a more engaging and supportive benefits experience for their employees. Ultimately, this can improve employee satisfaction, engagement and retention while supporting employees’ overall health and wellness needs.