Many companies make a big investment in expensive employee benefits to attract and retain employees. But according to a recent survey by corporate communications firm PL Communications, companies need to do a better job communicating because employees are not taking full advantage of their benefits.

About half of the corporate human resource professionals surveyed felt that employees do not fully use benefits such as employee assistance programs, vision plans and flexible spending accounts. These programs typically cost little for employers to offer, but according to PLC president Paul Lavenhar, “Supplemental programs like these could have higher participation rates if companies better educate employees about what these plans have to offer them.”

According to Laurie Murphy, president of PeopleAreKey, which assisted in designing the survey, “When benefit programs are designed and communicated effectively, they offer health, productivity, and financial advantages for companies and their employees. To help employees better use benefits to address health, productivity, and financial issues they may face, companies must explain benefits to employees clearly. Companies should also solicit feedback to determine whether they understand and are satisfied with existing benefits, as well as determine their most highly desired benefits.”

Three-quarters of the HR executives surveyed said that employees are very interested in their benefits programs. Despite this, most of these same companies don’t offer benefits communications. More surprising, one-third of the companies do not even have any employee communications plan.

Lavenhar says, “Companies usually do a good job of talking to the their employees about benefits during annual enrollment periods. But, a company’s benefits program is not a once-a-year investment, and employee benefits communications shouldn’t be either. A good communications program is critical to companies making the most of their benefit investment and their overall investment in their employees.”