Many companies pride themselves on their benefit plans. But a quick look at their messaging may tell you otherwise. Communications often give employees mixed signals about the value of those benefits.
Some companies unleash a tidal wave of information before open enrollment then a trickle for the rest of the year. Or, worse yet, they distribute boring and uninspired communications. Employees may not even recognize those messages came from their employer.
As someone who helps clients communicate effectively every day, I can tell you there is a better way. Make sure your benefits communications are relevant and align with your company culture. That culture makes you stand out as an employer and emphasizes your values. Your benefits should do the same, but if communications are lackluster, there could be a disconnect.
Here are 4 tips to help combine company culture with benefits communications.
1. Build the Branding Bridge
A benefits brand makes a difference. Ask yourself if your benefits brand fits comfortably among your company culture. Try this simple test. Give a co-worker a stack of communications that includes one from your benefits department and the rest from other parts of your company. Can they identify the benefits communications item at first glance? If they can’t spot your benefits brand, it might be time to re-evaluate it.
2. Make the Right Match
Is your company culture based on creativity and collaboration? A plain text email with a link to 40 PowerPoint slides is not the best way to combine company culture with benefits communications. Match your communications to the elements that define that culture.
Think about the aspects of your company that make people passionate. What would they tell a friend is the best thing about working at your company, besides the benefits? Apply that same logic to how you communicate what’s great about your benefits.
3. Watch the Wording
Liven up some of the language used in benefits communications. Even we can admit that Flexible Spending Accounts don’t set off fireworks in most people’s minds. Get creative with headlines. Spice up a few sentences in an otherwise dull document.
Avoid anything that sounds forced, or long, academic and boring. Remember, we live in the digital age, where attention spans are tenuous at best. A Jampp study found that human attention spans decrease by 88 percent each year. At the end of the day, your employees still need the facts. They’d prefer them to be short, simple and easy to understand.
4. Find the Fit
There are lots of ways to help remind employees about their benefits as part of a larger conversation about your company culture. Is your organization particularly passionate about innovation? Share new ideas from carriers, like apps to download, other tools to help employees, or tips to save money.
Benefits are an important part of how both employees and the wider industry perceive a company. Everyone should easily identify how your company’s benefit plans are a natural part of what makes it a great place to work. Keep benefits communications reflective of your company culture so employees will recognize the total value you provide.
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.
Benefits are important to employees. Sometimes, they can be game changers if an employee stays with your company or leaves. Employee benefits are continually evolving. As we turn a new page in the calendar, are you ready to remain an employer of choice? You need a comprehensive and up-to-the-minute benefits package to keep current staff and attract talented new hires.
Adding to your benefits package is great. But, as the saying goes, if a tree falls in the forest and no one hears it, did it happen? Communicating about improved benefits is essential. Here are three predictions for employee benefits in 2019 and our tips for when and how to communicate them.
1. Benefits Customization
Why is it that we can customize our cars, houses, and vacations, but not our benefits? Good question. We can! The days of cookie cutter benefits are going away. In their place are improved benefits packages tailored to specific health and financial needs. Cafeteria plans give employees a set dollar amount to buy the benefits that best meet their needs. You need to show employees how to do it.
To communicate about benefits customization, target the right audience. You might start by surveying your employees on the benefits most useful to them. Respond to what you learn with clear, user-friendly communications that lead with the “What’s In It for Me?”
If employees receive the information relevant to their preferences, they will be more likely to pay attention. Consider that 73% of employees say customized benefits increase their loyalty. And 83% would take a 3% pay cut in exchange for better benefits choices.
It’s clear workers crave personalization. Employees in one study ranked paid parental leave, commuting cost reimbursement, and leave to care for elderly relatives as the top 3 personalized benefits they’d be most likely to choose. Hopping on trend would put you in good favor. It’s up to you to communicate about improved benefits to show employees how you meet their needs.
2. Rise of Telemedicine
More companies now provide this benefit. From 2014 to 2018, the percentage of mid-size and large employers offering telemedicine rose from 18% to 80%. Telemedicine is a financial win for employees, as copays are often less than a visit to an urgent care clinic.
It can reduce absenteeism and promote good health. According to one survey, 86% of workers would cancel a preventive care appointment due to work pressures. If employees could use telemedicine for some of those check-ups, they wouldn’t feel guilty about missing critical time in the office.
Telemedicine pays off only if employees use it. Communication plans should focus on education. Telemedicine can be intimidating, so create brief videos that walk employees through the process of using it. Cold and flu season would be a great time to send out communications that remind staff about the benefit. Employees with chronic conditions that require monitoring are one population that you could target with materials that promote telemedicine.
The number of workers who use telemedicine is relatively low. Just 20% of companies with the benefit have utilization rates of 8% or higher. Yet, satisfaction is high among telemedicine users. Sixty-two percent rated their experience as an 8, 9, or 10.
A clear communications plan to show employees the WIIFM of telemedicine is a great first step to increase participation. Communicate about this improved benefit to position yourself as an employer whom cares for employees’ well-being.
3. Student Loan Assistance
With the average student loan debt at more than $37,000, this financial burden weighs on your workforce. Employees are putting off retirement savings, home buying, and starting families because of their debt. Currently, about 23% of companies offer some form of student loan help. This improved benefit would make you an employer-of-choice, especially with Millennials and the upcoming Gen Z.
Communications about a student loan relief benefit should begin with the recruitment phrase. If your company has booths at university career fairs, create and distribute marketing collateral to attendees. Mention the benefit in job ads to attract potential employees. Include it in on-boarding communications for new hires who may have missed the message.
No matter how you chose to provide student loan relief, communicate the benefit early and often. Don’t neglect your current employees when you craft messages. 86% of workers would remain with their employer for 5 years if they got help with student loans.
The benefits you offer go a long way to make you an employer that talented employees gravitate towards. With unemployment rates low, we’re in a buyer’s market for jobs. But if you don’t communicate your offerings, current and potential employees won’t see you as an employer of choice. Create a plan to get the word out about your improved benefits and you’ll make 2019 a successful year.
Employees want to feel valued. You want to keep your employees satisfied, engaged in their roles, and with your company for the long haul. According to a Gallup poll, employees who are engaged are 59% less likely to look for a new job in the next 12 months.
Consistent and helpful communications make employees feel a part of the team. Forty-eight percent rated transparent communication as something that makes them feel like they belong at work. Communications can help you retain the best and brightest employees if you meet their information needs. Here are some tips to help you do that.
Create Trust with Transparency
If you want employees who are invested in their jobs, you’ll need open and honest communication. We no longer live in an age where companies push out only self-serving information. To engage with employees, you need their trust and two-way communications build that trust.
What are employees’ concerns? What suggestions do they have to improve company culture? The best way to find out is to ask. Make sure to set the stage and the expectations appropriately. After all, you don’t want to invite feedback you’re not able to do anything about. Conduct focus groups where workers can talk in a safe and confidential setting. This will make them feel like their opinions count and engage them in any changes.
Make sure to act on employees’ comments. Send follow-up communications to let them know how they’ll be used and what you plan to do with the information. That way, they’ll feel like you take seriously. In turn, employees will put more trust in the messages you push out through other corporate communications.
You want to be transparent in your communications. Don’t sugar coat messages that may not resonate well with employees. This is another way to engender their trust. Be thoughtful and diplomatic, but honest. Transparency shows you trust your staff. Treat them with respect and they are more inclined to stay. Above board communications will improve your employee retention.
Take Their Pulse
Employees want to be heard. Learn what communications channels reach them most effectively. And, if you’re not sure, ask. Survey them on what they’d like to know and then give it to them. Use different media to meet them where they are. Keep in mind that you’ll likely have to create different communications strategies and tactics for different preferences and learning styles. Why create a desk drop flyer if Employee A throws it out? Why craft a well-worded email if Employee B deletes it? If you respect employee’s listening and learning styles, it shows you value them.
How you frame a message is just as important as how you deliver it. Be thoughtful about engaging employees from the outset. Make dry topics more interesting by putting the “What’s In It For Me” at the top. Since employees are individuals with their own needs and goals, they’ll be most engaged when you lead with what the message means for them.
Show employees you care about their input on content matters. Survey your workforce on what type of company news they want to hear. Maybe they are curious about what’s happening in another department. Maybe they want to know more about the broader industry. Take their pulse on communication needs and they will be more likely to pay attention.
Timing and Recognition Matter
With a well-thought out employee communications plan, you show you trust and value your staff. Employees want to know how their assignments help the company meet its goals. In fact, employees who feel their work doesn’t contribute to overall business goals are more likely to leave.
Communicate with workers outside of the annual performance review. Send a simple “you go!” email when someone completes a difficult project. Praise employees’ efforts and use messaging as a motivational tool to retain the best and brightest employees.
However, you must watch the frequency of your employee communications. Send too many and the most important messages risk getting lost in the shuffle. You don’t want workers to automatically tune out when another company announcement pops up in their in-box and interrupts their work flow.
Be strategic and stagger communications. Create a calendar for your messages for the upcoming year. Take into account periods with lots of vacation time and the busy season when employees are highly focused on their assignments. Use analytics to track open rates for emails and plan accordingly. If no one is reads messages on Monday mornings, it’s time to send on a new day.
Employees want to be heard and they want to receive messages that will help them do their jobs. Effective communications are one tool to help you retain the best and brightest.
There’s a good chance your company already gives employees the option to work from home. Telecommuting has exploded in recent years in the United States. In 2017, 43% of U.S. workers said they telecommute at least occasionally.
In many cases, work-from-home programs are good for both employers and employees. A recent Stanford study shows that employees who work from home are more productive. They also take fewer breaks, vacation days, and sick days. These are great benefits, but they’ll only be fully realized if employers clearly establish some ground rules with employees. The key to an effective telecommuting program, then, is the key to almost every successful workplace policy: Effective communication.
Here are four ways you can use communications to make sure that everyone sees the benefits of a successful work-from-home program. These strategies will help you engage employees who telecommute.
1. Communicate the benefits of telecommute program
For any new office initiative to be successful, you need buy-in from your employees. Working from home may seem like the holy grail of workplace perks for some personality types. Yet others may feel lonely and unsure without an office or co-workers who form a ready-made community. You might need extra effort to engage employees who telecommute.
Promote the benefits of the program in a way that appeals to all working styles and preferences. Stay focused on the “What’s In it For Them” and not how the program could to save the company money. For example, let them know by cutting out their daily commute to and from the office, there’s a good chance that they will see some real health benefits.
2. Provide employees with the information they need to create a productive work space at home
Emphasize they don’t necessarily need a separate space to use exclusively when they telecommute. Many people can work comfortably at their dining room table or on their back porch. What’s important is that they have the information to create the right environment to get work done. Share a checklist of items that create that optimal work space. This could include a reliable internet connection, a dedicated work phone, and an ergonomic chair and desk for comfort and health.
3. Promote ways for them to get the most of the experience, while meeting expectations
It is absolutely crucial that you lay out clear expectations for your employees before they begin to work remotely. For example, explain while you don’t expect them to be chained to their computer all day, they should be available to you and their coworkers just as much as they would be in the office. Send them regular communications so they stay on top of what’s happening at the office. Promote tips and tricks for them to get the most out of telecommuting experience and grow in their jobs and careers.
4. Schedule regular face-to-face check-ins
Keeping tabs on your employees is the best way to address workplace issues as they arise. That’s true in an office environment, and even more so in a remote work situation. Regular one-one-one video chats foster the kind of connection you’d have with your employees if you were both in the same, physical office. Remote workers feel more connected to their team. Managers can use these conversations to engage employees who telecommute. If it’s feasible, I also recommend regular in-person meetings with whole your team together in the office.
Communicate the benefits of a work-from-home program effectively. You’ll maximize productivity and help your employees strike an ideal work/life balance. These four tips should help you use effective communication to make sure your company’s telecommute program is a success.