Did you know that offering employees the opportunity to bring their pets to work is a current trend? It’s true! According to the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), nine percent of employers already have an office policy allowing pets. This includes some well-recognized employers-of-choice such as Google, Amazon, Salesforce and Workday.
The fact is that the percentage of workplaces with a pet-friendly policy has more than doubled in the past four years. Benefits experts believe that this percentage will continue to increase in the future.
Why you may ask? According to a business magazine called Chief Executive, the next generation of business professionals want it. A survey conducted by Banfield Pet Hospital found that more than 66 percent of human resource decision makers said that potential candidates asked if the workspace was pet-friendly during their interview process.
This is not necessarily a bad thing. A pet-friendly environment can benefit both the employer and the employee. The employer may see increased retention, loyalty, productivity, and morale in their staff. On the other hand, the employee may experience decreased stress and absenteeism, according to a recent study from the Virginia Commonwealth University. As an added bonus, when you allow pets in the office, employees may be more engaged and willing to work a full day. The policy eliminates their need to worry about rushing home to check-in on their pet.
If you already have a program like this or are looking to start one, consider effective communications a key element of its success. Here are some ways to make sure you’re engaging employees appropriately:
Make Sure Every Employee’s Voice is Heard
In order for a pet-friendly workspace to be successful, employees need to feel included. With this in mind, be sure to remember everybody might not have a pet or feel comfortable around animals. That’s why it’s important to find out where people are. Do this by talking to coworkers who might be worried about this implementation, are allergic, or have any questions or concerns. Engage them in a short online poll, focus groups or informal meetings to get their thoughts. Use what you learn to inform not only the program, but communications strategy. Arm managers with talking points so they know how to approach people on their teams who may be skeptical.
Design a “Frequently Asked Questions” Document That Lays Out Program Guidelines
One of the most important steps in creating this type of policy is making sure that the guidelines are clear. Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) are a user-friendly tool for distributing information in a way that can be scanned, easy to revisit, and quickly updated as questions come your way. Start with the questions you expect you’ll get the most. Write them in the way employees would ask them to make the information intuitive for search. Update often to aid in eliminating any confusion.
Get the Word Out Through the Appropriate Media
How you decide to spread the word to your employees is crucial. Are you going to send out a mass email? Post a flyer in the break room? Hold a company-wide meeting? Post it on your company’s intranet? There are many different ways to tell your employees about this new policy, but some may be more fitting for your company than others. The goal is to meet employees where you know they go most. This ensures that you are reaching as many people as possible. Even though younger workers tend to value this pet-friendly program most, not all want to receive information on line. Because we all learn differently, the best approach is to use a mix of approaches, from online to traditional. This guarantees that you connect with everybody somewhere.
Create Clear Messaging That Includes the Ground Rules
No matter how you decide to share information, remember that consistency is key. Reiterate the ground rules and key aspects of the policy often and through a variety of media so employees always know what to expect. If your message is direct, concise, and clear, employees are more likely to be receptive. Something to keep in mind is that when you begin to tire of the information, employees are just starting to get it.
Communicating the Pet-Friendly Policy in Recruitment
Your current workers aren’t the only ones who should know about this new policy. Promote it to job-searching millennials who, as we now know, are looking for pet-friendly offices. Talk to your Human Resources team to see how you can best communicate this policy in the recruitment process. That may include adding it to job postings on sites like Indeed or Glassdoor, putting it in the employee handbook and promoting it at job fairs. This could be a real deal maker for some candidates and in a tight job market, that counts!
As you can see, there are a lot of things to think about when educating your employees on how to embrace a pet-friendly office. Note that your communications strategy is crucial when explaining any new policy. Communicate well so you can set employees and your program up for real success.
This is the second of a two-part series. Read the first installment here.
After reading part one, hopefully you understand the value of investing in employee benefits communications and how to create a budget. The good news is you don’t have to wing it or leave benefits communications to chance. You can get help with high level strategy and planning and with executing those plans. A benefits communication firm can put you on the right track.
Yes, a benefits communication firm can be more expensive than creating communications in-house or outsourcing to a general communications firm. The value is in the expertise. Benefits communicators understand the complexities of benefits. They also understand communication best practices and they know the most effective way to share your messages. Your benefits communication team can create customized solutions that match your unique goals to your budget.
Outsourcing Helps Your Team
It’s not surprising that many human resource professionals are challenged by how to invest their dollars for maximum impact. With limited internal resources, they’re looking to get the most bang for their buck. It makes sense, then, when it comes to benefits communications, they’d partner with specialists who know how to get the job done. These firms work with impact and efficiency because it’s what they do every single day.
There are so many reasons to outsource your benefits communications to proven experts. For one, they’re trained professionals in the area. For another, outsourcing frees your internal team to focus on other, equally important tasks and initiatives. All of which contributes to savings over the long run.
Here are 3 questions to ask when engaging with a benefits communication firm:
- Do they understand benefits? Can they work with your external vendors to convey messages appropriately? Will they use the right media mix and get you the most bang for your buck?
- Can they provide you comprehensive services? That includes collaboration with other providers and stakeholders, as well as your internal team. They should conduct a communications audit; develop an employee-listening program; develop and implement a branding program and identify an overall effective strategy. A benefits communication firm should execute that strategy with writing, research, design, measurement, production, translation and other services that yield results.
- Does their pricing align with your needs and expectation? Does the cost match the overall market for similar services? Are they willing to be transparent? Is everything a la carte, or are they willing to create packages? When you go into pricing conversations be realistic about what communications cost and the time and resources involved.
Get the Most from Partnership
Once you’ve engaged with a benefits communication firm, what can you expect? A worthy communications partner will conduct a thorough needs assessment. This allows you to work together to set tangible goals for internal communication. You’ll work together on strategies, tactics, messaging, media, measures, and a timeline for achieving them. They’ll help drive actionable communications that give your employees they information need to make good benefits choices year round. Then you can focus on other business.
Here are 3 tips for getting the most out of collaboration with a benefits communication firm:
- Know when you need help. For example, you may need help promoting Open Enrollment, a new Consumer Driven Health Plan, a wellness program, or a change to your health plans or processes as a result of merger or acquisition. These are all good opportunities to get messaging out to employees. Be honest about what you need and how much you have to spend.
- Don’t worry about “solving the problem.” Share as much information as you can with your partner about your challenge and your overall objective. You may be certain you need a specific piece [newsletter, video, mailing to home] to achieve your goal. But many times something entirely different would work best. Trust the benefits communication firm to figure out the best how to get you where you want to go.
- Spend time planning and reviewing materials. After all, you are the ultimate subject matter expert regarding your company and employees. You and your communications vendor are partners, working together to achieve the desired results.
Collaboration across internal and external teams is essential for success. A trusted partnership with outside experts can give your communications a fresh perspective that leads to actionable outcomes.
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.
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.
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.