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.
Poor communications results in an average of $62.4 million wasted per company every year. There are many factors that contribute to poor communications. One notorious example is excessive use of business buzzwords. Such jargon consists of technical terms that are so overused that they have lost meaning, such as “ideate” and “disruptive.” Many business buzzwords started as industry terminology, but have lost substance through widespread use.
Why Do People Use Jargon?
Approximately 65% of American workers use jargon at least two to three times a week. People use this language to emulate how others in their industry talk or shorthand for communications. However, more common reasons for why people actually use business buzzwords are:
- They want to sound professional or intelligent.
- They want to hide unpleasant messages or dodge questions.
- They are trying to be politically correct.
- They find it easier than thinking of a more precise word.
Why Should You Stop Using Jargon?
Jargon results in in vague messages. In a 2017 survey by American Express, 88% of respondents admitted they only pretend to understand office jargon. Meanwhile, nearly 50% of this group also said that they use such phrases frequently. “The single biggest problem in communication,” said playwright George Bernard Shaw, “is the illusion that it has taken place.”
Avoiding buzzwords in business writing can be beneficial. Your communications will have a greater impact:
- You will sound more sincere. A study by New York University found that subjects perceived complex sentences with jargon to be less truthful than clear and concise sentences.
- You will minimize confusion. With so many ways to interpret jargon, it is likely that your recipient walks away with a different understanding of what you had intended.
- You will connect more personally. Using jargon with someone from outside your industry can make them feel excluded. Overuse of jargon can also make you sound robotic and inhuman. Even in business, people expect a more conversational tone. Meet employees where they are.
- You will sound less pretentious. Jargon-filled language can seem annoying and fake. If your messages are filled with double talk, employees might not be receptive. That can lead to a breakdown of trust.
How to Improve Your Communications
For heavy users of jargon, changing your ways won’t happen overnight. Start to pay closer attention to what you say or write. Often, a second look will help you avoid buzzwords in business writing.
When you create communications, remember the following tips to better connect with your audience:
- Know your audience. If you are talking to a technical audience about a technical subject, then, of course, incorporate technical language. However, if your audience is a mixed group or if your communication is about a non-technical matter, keep it simple. No matter whom you’re talking to, nobody wants to have to read your sentences twice in order to understand them.
- Use simple language. Be clear and concise. Limit your use of jargon, acronyms, and abbreviations. A good rule to follow for general communications is to make sure that a ninth grader or lower can understand you. Popular media, like Reader’s Digest, is written at that grade level. Microsoft Word will tell you the reading level of your document.
- Take a communication audit. Look at the last email that you sent. Do you spot any of The Hartford’s “60 Business Buzzwords to Delete from Your Vocabulary”? If so, maybe it’s time for a change.
Think carefully about your word choices. Don’t isolate your audience with business buzzwords.
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.
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.
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.