Benefits can play a crucial role in fueling employee engagement, which can in turn lead to better productivity and talent retention.

Unfortunately, even the best benefit communications strategy can miss the mark if it happens infrequently and leaves out management, experts say.

Nowhere is the engagement challenge more evident than in health care benefits, where rising costs have driven many employers to focus their engagement efforts toward wellness and health consumerism, Erin M. O’Connor of Cammack LaRhette Consulting told Human Resource Executive Online.

“People tend to listen to their boss, not necessarily to HR,” O’Connor said. “So to get those gains in productivity and reductions in benefits spend, you’ve got to have engaged managers and business leaders promoting health and well-being.”

O’Connor suggests that employers can motivate management to help spread the word about wellness and other benefits by demonstrating how productivity loss and absenteeism — byproducts of poor health — can impact individual departments within the company.

While this “trickle-down” method of engagement may take some time, the ultimate result of a more engaged workforce can be a boon for employers, new research suggests.

Employees who are satisfied with their employer-sponsored benefits package are nine times more likely to stick with their current employer, according to a new study by Aflac, reported in Employee Benefit News. In fact, workers ranked benefits above compensation in importance, with 75 percent responding that they’d be at least somewhat likely to take a job with lower pay as long as the benefits were good.

To keep managers and workers aware of robust benefits, employers should focus on constant and consistent communications, according to Jennifer Benz, a benefit communications consultant. Benz notes in a recent CCH online report that social media tools can strengthen an engagement campaign without a major drain on HR’s time or budget.

“Reminding employees about benefits once a year is not enough to get them actively engaged in decisions about their health and financial well-being,” Benz said. “The key . . . is feeding them bite-sized chunks of information year-round.”

Benz said blogs (including micoblogs such as Twitter), podcasts/videos, social networks such as Facebook and web-based forums can provide a way to inform and remind employees about the value of their benefits.