Whitepaper Highlights Importance of Employee Communication, Engagement and Choice

MetLife, a leading provider of employee benefits, offering dental plan administration for over 21 million people, today announced the release of Elevating the Value of Dental Benefits Through Employee Communications, a research study, that  provides insights into communications best practices that can directly impact a dental benefit plan’s success.  Based on recent research conducted by MetLife to understand how employees make decisions about their dental benefits, the new resource is available at 

“Given the current economic environment and growing importance employees are placing on ancillary benefits such as life, dental and disability, employers need to properly communicate with their employees to help them realize the full value of their benefit dollars.  To optimize the value of any dental benefit plan, it is important that the end-user – the employee – be satisfied.  This study can serve as a resource for employers as they seek to drive both employee satisfaction and retention while managing costs,” said Alan Vogel, DMD, national dental director for MetLife.  “The study contains actionable insights for employers that want to adjust their dental coverage or reinforce their current plan’s value.”

Better – Not More – Communications Help Drive Benefits Satisfaction

While employers can help enhance the value of their dental benefits by making plan design changes, they can also improve the employee benefits experience by providing employees with access to information and tools on dental care, according to Elevating the Value of Dental Benefits through Employee Communications.  While dental benefits are among the more frequently used benefits by employees, MetLife’s research revealed that many employees crave a better understanding of their dental coverage and their oral health risks.

In fact, when asked about their satisfaction with the information they currently receive, employees report only moderate satisfaction.  Just one in three employees feel that they have the coverage information they need to understand or select a plan, and one in five employees said they have “no idea” what is and what is not covered.  This suggests that there is a need for more employers to provide employees with better communications and support tools, and/or to be more effective in making their workers aware of resource offerings.

Dr. Vogel says, “More effective communication about dental benefits offerings can have a big pay off for employers.  Employees who report having an excellent understanding of their dental plan benefits are three times more likely to be very satisfied with their plan overall than those with a fair or poor understanding.  In addition, 68% of employees who say that benefits are an important reason for remaining with their company believe their benefits communications educate them effectively, compared to 21% who do not believe their benefits communications educate effectively.”

MetLife’s research uncovered ways that employers can offer better – but not necessarily more – communications to help improve employee satisfaction with their dental benefits offerings.  Specifically, employers and brokers should consider enhancing their basic information provided to employees and then move “beyond the basics” and inform employees of the importance of oral health, educate employees about coverage, and provide access to additional resources, such as oral health risk assessment tools.

Impact of Plan Life Cycle on Communications Wants and Needs

Employers should also understand how employees modify their attention to benefit programs over time to help create effective communication plans.  MetLife research has shown that employee tenure at an organization – and therefore length of their relationship with the dental plan – is a critical factor to consider when designing effective communications strategies. 

Overall, employees’ attention to their dental benefits and their use of information sources decreases from initial enrollment to re-enrollment.  MetLife’s research found that employees spend 25 minutes on average making initial enrollment decisions, but only five minutes making re-enrollment decisions.  In addition, most employees (62%) do not use any information sources to help them make decisions at re-enrollment; but at initial enrollment, 72% of employees use one or more sources of information.  When making plan modifications, employers should be sure to draw attention to the changes so participating employees are aware of them and more engaged as they re-enroll.   Understanding this “life cycle approach” to benefits communication allows employers to help increase the effectiveness of their communication efforts.

Study Methodology

MetLife conducted 500 online surveys between January 30, 2009 and February 4, 2009 of employees who receive dental benefits through their employer.  The interviews were divided into subgroups based on employer size: 166 with employees of companies employing fewer than 500 employees (“Small Companies”), 167 with employees of companies employing 500-9999 employees (“Mid-size Companies”) and 167 with employees of companies employing 10,000+ employees (“Large Companies”).

About MetLife
MetLife is a subsidiary of MetLife, Inc. (NYSE: MET), a leading provider of insurance, employee benefits and financial services with operations throughout the United States and the Latin America, Europe and Asia Pacific regions. Through its subsidiaries and affiliates, MetLife, Inc. reaches more than 70 million customers around the world and MetLife is the largest life insurer in the United States (based on life insurance in-force). The MetLife companies offer life insurance, annuities, auto and home insurance, retail banking and other financial services to individuals, as well as group insurance and retirement & savings products and services to corporations and other institutions. For more information, visit


Karen Eldred
Shalana Morris