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.
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.
A healthy work environment is one that considers all aspects of employees’ well-being. This includes physical, mental and yes, financial wellness.
If that last one is a surprise to you, check the pulse of your employees. Many of them want guidance through tough financial situations. Are giving them they support they need?
Holistic financial wellness for employees goes beyond offering them a 401(K). A recent study showed a gap between programs employers think they should offer and what employees think should be available to them
For example, student loan debt is a well-known financial hurdle. The average borrower graduates college with $37,000 in debt. It can prevent younger employees from buying homes or achieving other financial milestones. Survey results show 46 percent of employees want their companies to help them pay off or finance student loan debt. 18 percent of bosses agreed.
You may have heard the financial mantra that you need an emergency fund that covers three to six months of living expenses. Unfortunately, according to a Bankrate survey, 23 percent of Americans have no emergency savings. In fact, 22 percent have only saved enough to cover fewer than three months.
It follows, then, that 44 percent of workers want their companies to offer them help to create that emergency fund. Only 22 percent of employers agree they should offer such help. With an emergency fund part of an overall budget plan, 36 percent of employees would also like assistance to maintain their budget.
Let’s Talk About Money
They are more examples of this divide, but you get the idea. Employees are looking to you, as an employer of choice, to throw them a financial life raft. We recommend using employee communications throughout the year to give workers support. Here are a few ways to get you started:
- Use pay increases to as a time for a financial wellness conversation. Communications can encourage employees to tuck that extra money into their emergency fund. Create an infographic that shows even small increases can have big impacts. Show them how even a three percent raise on a $50,000 salary offers them an extra $1,500 per year. Total rewards statements help employees see the whole picture of their compensation. They will understand and appreciate the employee value proposition and you as an employer.
- Create a savings account guide. This is a communication that lays out all the ways employees can save money. They’re no longer limited to stowing their money at their local bank. Online savings and money market accounts offer better interest rates. Or, your 401(K) provider may also offer a savings vehicle with a good rate of return. Show the pros and cons of different account providers. Teach employees where they can learn more about savings options.
- Use communications to show employees where they’re leaving money on the table. Does your company match 401(K) contributions? Explain to workers how that’s essentially “free” money. Send year-end reminders to workers enrolled in flexible savings accounts so they remember to a use funds before expiration. Create a handy checklist of eligible expenses.
Awareness is the First Step
Open enrollment is another logical time to support workers to make wise financial choices. Encourage employees to choose plans that get them the care they need at a price they can afford. For example, HDHPs can be a vehicle for financial wellness for employees. These plans take a smaller chunk out of paychecks. In your communications, illustrate that difference. Employees can funnel the money they save from making smart benefits decisions towards student loan or other personal debt.
Workers might not know money in health savings accounts, which go hand-in-hand with HDHPs, grows tax-free. That money is theirs forever; it travels with them when they change jobs. And when employees are 55 years old, they can sock away an extra $1,000 annually. Create targeted, forward-thinking communications for baby boomers. When they retire, they can use their HSA to pay for covered medical expenses. Tell them that saving now can stop headaches in the future.
Encourage smart financial decisions in year-round communications. Your employee intranet is a smart place to house on-demand financial education. You can poll your workforce on the financial worries that keep them up at night (anonymously, of course!) Then, create and post short, educational videos, infographics, and fact sheets on those topics. Develop a mix to appeal to various learning and communications preferences. If time or resources are tight, you can link to educational videos and podcasts from outlets like You Need a Budget.
Personal financial stress affects all areas of life, including work performance. Help your workforce shine at home and at work. Use communications to show you look out for employees’ physical, mental and financial wellness.
Have you ever sat in a meeting and wondered, “did we really need a meeting for this?” You’re not alone. According to the Harvard Business Review, 71% of senior managers said meetings are unproductive and inefficient. 65% said meetings keep them from completing their own work. When used effectively, face-to-face meetings can be a valuable tool. Unfortunately, in the corporate world, effective meetings are not always the case.
The Dark Side of Meetings
On average, employees spend 62 hours each month in meetings – almost 40% of their working time! This takes away from the time that they have available to actually work on their assignments.
In addition to being a time waster, ineffective meetings also:
- Reduce productivity. When interrupted, it can take up to 23 minutes to refocus on a task. With several meetings scattered throughout your work day, you spend a lot of time and energy trying to recapture your focus.
- Lead to burnout. In order to concentrate and complete their work, many employees are cutting into their personal time to work early or stay late. Over time, this can cause them to become exhausted and stressed, resulting in lower employee engagement and higher turnover.
- Waste money. More than $37 billion per year is spent on unproductive meetings. Calculate the cost of everyone in attendance at your last meeting. Was the work or decisions made during the meeting worth that cost?
Consider Other Communication Channels
Meetings are just one channel for you to communicate with colleagues. There may be a more effective (and efficient) way to deliver your message. Think about what you want to accomplish and consider the following alternatives:
- I want to share information or update: Send an email.
- I want to teach a new feature/program: Send a video.
- I want real-time responses: Call or send an instant message.
Make Your Meetings More Productive
Sometimes, however, you need to conduct effective face-to-face meetings. Follow these tips to make your meetings more efficient and productive.
- Keep it short. The average person pays attention for about 10-18 minutes before they tune out. Only about 73% of people pay attention after the 30-minute mark. Keep your meetings effective by keeping them short. This maximizes employee engagement.
- Don’t schedule in 30-minute blocks. According to Parkinson’s Law, work expands to fill the time available for completion. Similarly, meetings tend to expand to fill the allotted time. So if you only need 20 minutes, schedule a 20-minute meeting.
- Consider your audience. Determine whose attendance is needed to conduct an effective meeting. For noncritical people, send them a recap email afterwards or make their attendance optional.
- Set a clear agenda and goals. Share an agenda with the topics you need to cover and the goals you want to achieve. This will help your meeting stay focused and purposeful.
- Send materials ahead of time. Ask participants to review materials before the meeting and come ready for discussion. This reduces the time spent going through materials together.
- Keep everyone focused. Ban the use of outside technology to keep participants more engaged and focused on the topic at hand.
Andy Grove, former CEO of Intel, once wrote: “Just as you would not permit a fellow employee to steal a piece of office equipment, you shouldn’t let anyone walk away with the time of his fellow managers.” It is time for us to respect each other’s most valuable asset, our time, and think twice before we schedule an ineffective meeting.