Today’s workforce has many generations. To reach all employees, you need to consider each group has its own communication preferences. For example, Baby Boomers prefer to talk over the phone or in-person, says the Plainview Herald. Millennials, on the other hand, want to text, according to the employee engagement app, Crew.
Sandwiched between these groups, Gen X employees can be easily forgotten. Don’t let that happen with your communications. Gen Xers, as they are commonly called, were born between 1965 and 1980. They make up 60 percent of the American workforce, according to HR platform Rise. Understand and optimize the communication styles of Gen X employees and you’ll have more engaged employees.
You’ve Got Mail
That AOL call is nostalgic music to Gen X ears. These employees want to hear from you via email. After all, they are the first generation to incorporate email into their daily lives.
When crafting your email, don’t forget WIIFM—“What’s in it for me?” That question is important across all generations. However, Generation X is especially curious about the personal impact of benefits. Gen X is also cost conscious, considering they lived through two recessions. Use your messaging to show the value of benefits, especially buy-up perks, like critical illness insurance or voluntary life insurance. This group reacts negatively to “hard sell” communications. See your role as a consultant. Give Gen X employees the facts they need to make smart benefits decisions.
The Social Network
While you may think social media and Millennials go hand in hand, Generation X spends its fair share of time online. One AdWeek survey found 75 percent routinely use social media, with Facebook being their preferred network. Do you take advantage of social media as an employee communications tool? Encourage your Gen X staff to follow the company. Or, consider creating private groups for employees and post need-to-know info.
Beyond social media, this group watches online videos. Almost 79 percent of Gen Xers stream or download at least one video each month. Keep the communication styles of Gen X employees in mind when preparing communications. A brief explainer video about a new benefit could be the ticket to educate these workers.
Hey, Mr. Postman!
While Gen X values digital, they are also receptive to printed communications. In a white paper from Independent Agent, 75 percent call pieces mailed to home valuable. A study from the US Postal Service found 60 percent of Gen Xers look for their mail every day, compared to 43 percent of Millennials.
When planning your communications mix for Generation X, include printed materials. This tactic also reaches their spouses, whom research shows both use benefits and are highly influential in choosing them. With 70 percent of this group married, spouses can play a big part in getting your message across.
I’m Going to Need for You to Come in on Saturday
What’s one way to lose a Gen X employee’s attention? Unnecessary meetings. This generation doesn’t respond to long, in-person sessions and prefers a no-nonsense attitude. Since other groups like face-to-face sessions, meetings are unavoidable. For the most effective cross-generational meetings, remember the adage, “Be brief, be bright, be gone.” Before organizing a one-on-one encounter with a Gen Xer, ask if you could convey the message via email instead.
While it’s important to appeal to Gen X workers, you need to consider the communication styles of the entire workforce. The good news is that there’s often overlap. Most groups like to be reached through a diverse mix of media. They respond well to messages that focus on how they’ll benefit. If you keep these things in mind, you’ll be well-suited to reach all audiences, including Gen Xers.
Gen X has called itself the forgotten generation. Don’t leave them behind with your messages. Concise, educational communications that emphasize value are the way to get their attention.
May is Mental Health Month. Your employee’s mental well-being matters year-round. But this month is an opportune time to communicate with your employees about how you support them.
Good mental health is not just necessary for your workers’ total well-being, but it also benefits you as an employer. Mental health conditions contribute to 62 percent of missed work days. That’s according to the 1,850 U.S. employed adults surveyed for the 2019 Unum Mental Health Report.
Whether you have a fully-developed set of benefits that address mental health in the workplace, or offer employees general wellness resources, communications is key. Here are some great programs and messages to promote as part of a communications strategy around Mental Health Month.
Teach Employees How to Use the Employee Assistance Program
Your company may offer its workers an Employee Assistance Program (EAP). Such programs often include several free sessions with professional therapist or counselor. This is gold, especially for someone who is struggling and doesn’t know where to turn or have a lot of money to spend.
Sadly, many employees don’t understand that an EAP is part of their benefits. The Unum report found only 38 percent of employees knew they had access to an EAP. It’s up to you to help them understand its offerings and advantages.
Use messaging to explain the program benefits and reassure employees about confidentiality. Privacy matters. Sixty-one percent of employees said there was a social stigma in the workplace towards colleagues with mental health issues. Design a mail-to-home postcard that explains step-by-step how to use the EAP. Since most EAP’s extend to dependents that communications method gets home to spouses so they know can take advantage.
Encourage Employees to Take a Stress Reduction Class
A program doesn’t need to be specifically about mental health in the workplace for employees to benefit. Mindfulness can benefit all staff, regardless if they have a diagnosed mental health condition.
Consider hosting wellness seminars. With the help of strong communications and promotion, they will be well attended and regarded by employees. I have personally benefited from a Stress Reduction session and a Mindfulness, Meditation and Relaxation session sponsored by my company.
There are lots of ways to promote these seminars, like email, posters and desk drop flyers. It’s also important to:
- Engage frontline managers. Give them the details to understand the impact of stress management on employee well-being and performance. Employees need to feel confident that their managers support their decision to take the time to attend a session
- Create a seamless sign-up process so employees can enroll easily and directly. This will make them more likely to take action.
- Offer both in-person and online sessions that capture remote workers, too. Or, if budgets allow, offer repeat sessions at different times of day or different times of year.
Remind Employees to Take a Break
Time away from the office is important for mental well-being. Even the occasional short break throughout the day can make a difference. Encourage employees to take them.
- Promote mobile apps, like Calm or Headspace, that help employees get the most from brief moments of revitalization. Write and distribute a communication about these options. With some guidance, staff might be motivated to download one.
- If your office is close to a walking path, or park , encourage them to get out in nature, which research shows has a restorative effect. Start a lunch-time walking club that can be done outside or even inside, if the weather is bad. This has the added benefit of socialization, which also boosts mood. A flyer on the breakroom fridge would be an eye-catching way to communicate about this program.
Vacation time is crucial for mental health. Remind employees about your vacation time policy and help them understand why it’s important. Feature the voices of senior leadership in communications so employees know they support time off. Since May is the time many people start planning their summer vacations, it’s a great time to drill down into this message. Also remind folks about your employee discount program and how to save on rental cars, hotels, attractions, etc.
Promote Charitable Efforts
Use your voice as a company to support mental health in the workplace and let employees know it’s a priority. Make a corporate donation to an organization that promotes mental well-being. Or, you may want a more hands-on approach. Organize a company team to participate in a charitable outing, like the National Alliance for Mental Health walk or the Out of the Darkness walks from the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.
In this case, you need consistent communications both inside and outside of Mental Health Month. Create a how-to tool kit for managers, so they can talk up charitable events at team meetings and engage participation. The presence of leadership at such events is a morale booster. If you’ve done a walk before, ask staff to share photos. Post them on the company intranet to raise feelings of camaraderie. If this is the company’s first time, no need to reinvent the wheel. Many charities have media packages to download and distribute.
Mental health in the workplace matters to everybody—those who struggle with their own mental health issues and those who want to support them. Take the time this month and every month to communicate that your company values its workers’ total well-being.
A benefits content calendar helps you communicate to employees about their benefits. As a communicator, a content calendar also helps your sanity. This document organizes all the messages you want to deliver this year in a single place. This makes collaboration easier. You won’t struggle for ideas or skip important milestones.
A benefits content calendar is a great way to plan for the future. It’ll keep you on track to send information year round. You determine what employees need to know and when. Create messages that educate and involve employees in how to choose and use their benefits.
This is crucial, because you want employees to make smart decisions. The results of a recent study Maestro Health survey of 1,000 people found just 33% completely understand their health care coverage. You, as a communicator, bridge that gap between confusion and knowledge.
If you don’t already have a one, there are lots of ways to create this document quickly and easily. Here are some tips for building your benefits content calendar.
First, create a structure for your content calendar that works for your team. Spreadsheets are a simple yet efficient option. Or you can try a collaborative online program with more features, like Asana or Trello.
Think of each column header as a step to complete on the road to final delivery of your message.
Step 1: Topics
Take the time to create a list of the topics you want to cover. Next, match them to specific times of the year. For example, messages around how to use new benefits should be communicated early. By January, employees may forget about the benefits they signed up for in October. If you have grace periods for flexible spending accounts, add reminders when building your benefits content calendar to create messages about those March deadlines.
You can also tie the calendar to outside health and wellness events. May is healthy vision month, a great time to remind your employees how to use their vision benefit. If you offer a critical illness voluntary benefit that includes incentives for certain health screenings, add reminders to distribute information during the appropriate months. For instance, communications on the importance of mammograms are a good fit for breast cancer awareness month in October. Skin cancer screening reminders can go out in November, which is healthy skin month. If you struggle over what to write, consult your calendar.
Step 2: Channels and Audience
Choose your delivery methods wisely. Would the message be better received in an email? A desk drop flyer? An article on the intranet? Make sure you reach employees where are.
Who is the intended audience? Some communications are for everyone and some have specific niches. Determine which segment of your population you’d like to reach. Don’t forget about spouses, who, research has shown, play a significant role in benefits decisions.
Step 3: Delivery Dates and Responsible Parties
A benefits content calendar keeps you on track to know when to send certain messages. It also tracks who does what. Remember everyone who needs to touch the content. Does your graphic designer need to create images? Do insurance carriers need to review the language? Include all the steps in the workflow so no details are missed.
Include space for each responsible person to initial when they’ve completed their work. If don’t use a program that automatically alerts the team when a task is completed, ask people to send a notification email. Then the next person in the chain knows to start their task. Once the final person signals their approval, it’s time to publish.
Step 4: Track Performance
A calendar saves you from wondering, ‘Did we already promote this benefit?’ However, publishing is not the last step. When building your benefits content calendar, be sure to include a column for analytics. Track how different pieces performed. Partner with your carriers to obtain utilization data. See if there was an uptick in employee actions after they read certain messages.
If you didn’t get the desired results, add a note to your benefits content calendar to push out the message in another channel. Remember, employees have different communications preferences that affect how they process information.
Step 5: Repeat
Sprinkle important messages throughout the year. Once is often not enough, repetition is key. Psychologists refer to the mere-exposure effect. Repetition leads to familiarity and familiarity leads to preference. Hearing or reading pertinent information multiple times leads employees to make choices. And choice puts benefits control in their hands
It’s rare that employees will understand information on the first pass. They need to hear it and see it many times and in many different ways. In other words, when you start to get sick of the message, they’ve just started to get it.
Strong communicators understand the importance of to-do lists and deadlines and metrics. Your content calendar helps you organize all three. Stay on top of messages to create clear, focused communications that teach employees the value of their benefits.
Work-life balance is not just a buzzword. It matters to both your employee’s mental and physical health and the well-being of your company. The National Institute of Occupational Health showed businesses lose over $300 billion each year from absenteeism and turnover caused by overwork.
Employees who achieve balance are more productive and loyal. One study from TINYpulse showed they were 10 percent more likely to stay with their employer.
The connection between communications and improved work-life balance for employees can be powerful. As the employer, you need to let them know that you care about them holistically. Trust us when we tell you, this is a message that will resonate. We see its impact every day in the work we do for our clients. Research also bears it out. A study from Robert Half shows 39 percent of respondents believe creating balance is the employer’s responsibility
So how can you get in on it? Create communications to encourage improved work-life balance. Show your investment in employees’ happiness and well-being. Use clear messaging that encourages employees to lead their best lives at home and work.
Ask Employees What They Need
So many of our clients insist they know how their employees think and feel on a particular issue. Yet, they’re often surprised by the results when we send out feedback surveys and conduct focus groups.
If you want to know how employees feel about work-life balance in your organization, ask them. Host a focus group or distribute a survey where people can share their thoughts in a confidential setting.
What you learn just may surprise you. A study done by Workplace Trends says 67 percent of human resources’ professionals think their employees have strong work-life balance. Only 45 percent of employees agree.
Ask what programs or resources could help them. How can your organization encourage improved work-life balance? Is it flexible schedules? Onsite wellness offerings, like a meditation class? Access to personal financial planning help? More voluntary benefits to increase peace of mind?
Be prepared to set expectations. Let employees know that their feedback is valuable. While you may not be able to act on everything they want, explain what you can put into place. Be transparent and send regular updates about your progress. Even if the news isn’t always good, share it. Employees think more positively about employers they can trust to tell the truth. They can spot deflection or sugar coating from a mile a way
Educate About Offerings
Create a communications campaign around underutilized programs and benefits that help employees achieve improved work-life balance. One example is your Employee Assistance Program (EAP). EAPs are great to help employees manage the daily issues of living, like time management.
Maintain conversations with employees year round, not just during Open Enrollment. Employees might be consumed by the “winter blues.” Show them how the EAP can be a resource for mental health issues.
If you offer a corporate discount program, send reminders as summer gets closer. Teach employees how to use the program to save on hotels, amusement parks and flights. Vacations are a great way to promote family bonding and leave your workers refreshed and renewed. In fact, one study by Alertness Solutions found reaction times went up by 40 percent after vacation. This means people perceive, process and respond to information quicker. Employees are more focused, which benefits your organization.
Share these messages through a variety of channels to connect with the audience in as many ways as possible. One employee might take action after reading an email. Another might be inspired by a poster in the break room. Make sure each channel includes What’s In It For Me? (which should be the focus of all your communications) Put the employees’ needs first, so you grab people’s attention and they keep reading
Share Work-Life Balance Stories
Communications to encourage improved work-life balance can take many forms. Don’t neglect the power of story! Show employees how their colleagues engage in work-life balance.
Collect stories and photos from willing participants who balance work with outside interests. Does someone volunteer weekly at an animal shelter? Maybe someone is training for her first marathon? Share their stories on the company intranet to help workers find colleagues with similar interests. They can connect with each other and build new, beneficial relationships.
Encourage front line managers to share their stories with their teams. They can seed conversations about ways to lead to lead healthy and balanced lives. If managers model work-life balance, employees will understand it’s important to take time for themselves.
By communicating with employees about improved work-life balance, you show your company supports their well-being. Urge staff to grow both inside and of their jobs. Their performance—and your bottom line—will benefit.
The workforce is changing. Generation Z, those born 1996 and later, have begun to graduate college and enter the job market. If you haven’t already felt the influence of this generation at your company, you will soon.
It can be tricky to communicate across the now four generations that make up your employee base. Remember different groups have their own preferences to receive and process information. You’re probably most unfamiliar with the youngest cohort. Are you ready to create communications for Gen Z employees?
The Value of Face-to-Face Communications
First, some rather unexpected news. Even with their constant immersion in technology, Generation Z employees value in-person communications. Thirty-nine percent rated that method as the most effective way to reach them. In another survey, this generation ranked their at-work communication preferences as
- Face-to Face
Short, regular, one-on-one check-ins are vital to these employees. They want regular feedback from their managers. Yet, to be ready to communicate with Gen Z, you must be ready for two-way conversations. Fifty-one percent said leaders who listen to them help them do their best work.
They value face-to-face communications, but Gen Z has a shorter attention span than previous generations. It’s no wonder that the greatest share of Snapchat users are between ages 18-24. Bite-sized chunks of information are the way to reach this group. Meetings should be brief and more importantly, interactive, to hold the interest of these employees. Instead of a weekly, hour-long sit-down, try a daily ten-minute standing huddle. If your meetings are leaders talking at workers, you will lose their attention.
Smartphones All Day
Yes, Gen Z thrives on in-person conversations more than their Millennial predecessors. But, there is another way their communications preferences differ. These employees grew up as digital natives. They expect fast, effective technology. Each day, a member of Gen Z multi-tasks across five screens. Will your communications grab their attention on at least one of those devices? To create communications for Gen Z employees, you must develop a strong mobile strategy.
Smartphones are the device of choice for these employees. Previous generations may have viewed texts from the company as intrusive. Gen Z ranked them ahead of email as their preferred way to receive corporate information. Invest in a platform that lets you send texts to a large number of recipients. Ask yourself, what real-time information can we share via text? Gen Z estimates they only need five to ten minutes a day to understand relevant information from their company. Texts are a great medium to provide that instant knowledge.
This generation also values apps for employee communications. They don’t want to log onto an employee intranet, they want one-touch access on their phones. Managers can approve vacation requests, provide performance feedback, and share information on benefits through an app. Gen Z relies on technology. How can you use it to create communications for them and make sure key messages are heard?
Video Bridges the Gap
In the spirit of technology, it comes as no surprise that Gen Z thrives on video. Consider that YouTube is their most-used app. You don’t have to create the next viral sensation. You should use video to provide the real-time information this generation craves. Why not try video meetings instead of in-office meetings? It will keep remote workers engaged with the team.
Short videos are also a great way to educate Gen Z on benefits and other company policies. This cohort ranks videos as their preferred learning method. Apply that technology to onboard new hires, introduce new benefits and conduct other HR functions. But, remember to keep it snappy. The WIFFM or What’s in it for me of communications to should be brief and bold. Give them the essence of what they need, then let them be on their way.
Remember to be Inclusive
Keep in mind that effective workplace communications consider the needs of all employees. These suggestions to create communications for Gen Z employees should not be taken at the expense of other generations’ preferences. Well-rounded communications efforts insure the entire workforce receives and process information. Think of these as additional tools for your toolbox. With planning, your company can be ready to communicate across generations.