According to a recent Forbes article, student loan debt is second only to mortgages in categories of U.S. consumer debt by amount—making it greater than both the credit card and auto loan categories. Graduates in the class of 2016 alone had an average of $37,172 in student loan debt.
How you present your student loan benefit to potential employees can make a great impact on the caliber of the applicant that is attracted to your company. In addition, it can also affect just how long your employees decide to stay on board. The need for support in paying down student aid is only increasing, according to several sources.
CommonBond offers four convenient ways to make student loan payments easy to understand and incorporate into the lives of your employees.
- A monthly contribution to their payment
- A personal evaluation of their student loans and general finances
- Reward employees with tax-advantaged 401(k) contributions for paying down their student debt.
- The ability to refinance old loans into one loan with a lower interest rate
At the present time, only 4 percent of employers are actually offering student loan help as a benefit, according to the Society for Human Resource Management’s 2017 Employee Benefits Report. This means that there is plenty of space to make these benefits part of your unique reason for why people should be interested in working at your company.
So how do you as a human resources professional present this seemingly new benefit to employees in a way that makes it easy to understand? We came up with six keys to making the process easier for you and your human resources team.
Communicate Your Benefits Plan Before and After Hiring
A strong communications plan is an important part of ensuring that your employees, both present and future, know exactly what you offer in your benefits package.
People pay close attention to lists that contain information on the best places to work in their city, state, or region. Offering student loan assistance is sure to be one of those benefits that can make your place of work amongst the most competitive.
Here’s how you can ensure you communicate your student loan benefits in a way that attracts high-quality talent:
- Find journalists in your area that write about careers and workplace issues. Connect with them via press releases or social media and pitch stories centered on how your company is changing the lives of your employees with this unique benefit.
- Create a company benefits section on the job postings section of your website. Use the site to talk about your student loan assistance program. Job seekers appreciate transparency in the job search process.
- Create marketing materials that demonstrate your student loan benefit programs and distribute them at career fairs.
Once employees are hired, it’s important to remind them of this valuable benefit during their orientation. Walk them through how easy it is to enroll and give clear examples of how the program can make a difference in paying down their loans.
For example, if your program focuses on refinancing, give real numbers that show how long it would take to repay their loans if they choose to enroll in the program.
If your program focuses on contribution, explain how much employees can expect you to pay on a monthly basis and what the parameters of participation are.
Make Your Communication as Simple as Possible
A common complaint about new employee benefits orientation is that employers tend to leave the new employee alone to organize and prioritize all the information that is being shared with them. The insurance handbooks that are as thick as dictionaries—as well as folders, pamphlets, and flyers—are often filled with technical jargon that assumes the employee has a background in benefit implementation.
It’s important for human resources representatives to remember that not all employees speak English as their first language, nor do they all have the same preferred method of learning. Some employees learn better with the assistance of audio and video components, while others prefer to have a conversation with someone about what they are signing up for.
Be sure that your materials are easy to read and leave the door open to allow employees to come to you with questions (either via email or in-person) without hesitation.
Try Not to Inundate Your New Employees with Irrelevant Information
Onboarding of new employees can be an overwhelming process. New team members are not only trying to learn the ropes of their new jobs and remember the names and faces of co-workers and managers, but they are also trying to get a handle on how to organize their benefits packages. Too much information at once can be confusing.
For example, if your company has decided that your employees won’t be eligible for a student loan contribution benefit until they pass a 90-day probationary period, then it doesn’t make sense to give them all the enrollment materials right when they start. Instead, opt to give them a general overview with a one-page timeline of when they will be eligible for the benefit.
When the time comes for an employee to opt-in to the new benefit, ask them to make an appointment with a human resources representative, or sign up using an easy online process.
Focus on Educating Your Employees
Contrary to popular belief, student loan assistance is a valuable benefit across age groups, from the recent college graduate to the middle-aged single mom who may be caring for an aging parent. According to our latest white paper, 59 percent of employees age 22-44 have student loans. This requires that human resources professionals remain vigilant about sharing valuable benefits information with employees throughout the year.
Whether your organization is large or small, all employees should have the advantage of being clear on what benefits are being offered, how these benefits work for them now and in the future, and what they need to do to enroll.
One way to do that is to commit yourself to educating your employees all year round and not just during open enrollment season. Why? Because the circumstances of people’s lives can change at any given moment.
Everyday, employees marry their partners, welcome new babies, buy bigger houses, etc. Each life change, whether expected or not, leads to shifts in their finances and benefit needs.
Start by offering a survey to your employees to see how much they know about current benefits, where to find more information, and how to enroll. Use this information to create educational campaigns and share your findings via email, the company website, and in-person meetings.
Make Your Benefits Information Accessible in Multiple Ways
We discussed the importance of educating employees and sharing relevant benefits information on the website or email. But what about other forms of internal communication, like a company intranet?
The intranet is a private network on the web that is only accessible to those within the company. Human resources managers often use this space as a place to communicate with employees concerning benefits programs.
An efficient intranet system can support the daily work of human resources representatives by cutting down on administrative tasks such as filling out forms, answering common questions regarding salary, and going into detail regarding company policies and procedures.
The intranet is also a great place to share company-wide communication like a newsletter focused solely on human resources issues. You can create valuable content that focuses on benefit plan updates, open enrollment dates, articles about real-life situations where employees were helped by enrolling in student loan assistance programs, and more.
Be Available to Answer Questions
It’s important to offer employees opportunities to connect with human resources representatives whenever they have questions about their benefits.
The system of student loan management in the U.S. can be rather complicated if you look at all the forms that need to be signed, the changing rules on repayment and interest rates, and the complicated language that may not always be up to date on bank and loan payment center websites.
As a human resources professional, you should be committed to providing quality service by being knowledgeable about updates in student loan benefit assistance and communicating any changes via email, the company website, and the employee intranet.
While every company is unique, organizing a strategy with your human resources team to ensure that you are meeting the needs of your employees when it comes to student loan assistance can have a lasting impact on the success of your company.
Download our latest white paper, The Missing Benefit in Financial Wellness, to learn more about what you can do as a human resources representative to help make your workforce more satisfied and productive.