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More Meaning, Less Noise: 6 Tips for Better Benefits Communication

POSTED BY
Heidi Erdmann-Sullivan on September 12, 2017 10:30 AM

The glossy tri-fold brochure may soon be extinct.  The overstuffed packet? Its days are numbered, too. 

Benefits communications is no longer about distributing information through hard-copy handouts, printed posters and an annual benefits fair. It’s about a relationship built on relevance – constantly reinforced through multiple layers.  It all boils down to more meaning and less noise. 

Here are six tips for communicating your benefits programs more effectively.       

  1. Know your employees and how they listen
    With five generations in the workplace, the employee landscape is vast and varied – with benefits needs to match. There is some overlap between what each generation wants, but there are also distinct differences.  Understand who your employees are and what they need (check out this article that details benefits needs by generation and how to market to them).  The success of your benefits program hinges on its relevance in the lives of your employees. But versioning and delivery method is going to ensure each segment actually hears what's relevant to them.  Quirky and fun via social media might work great for Gen Z and Millennials, whereas Gen X  may want a relatable case study in a video or brief email.  Your Baby Boomers and Traditionals may prefer more formal facts in an old-school handout. 

    RELATED: Retention by Generation: What Matters Most

  2. Recognize life phases happen at different rates
    Remember that while employees might share a generation, the rate at which they experience life phases is different. So, while there are generalities that apply to each group, a deeper understanding of what’s happening in your employees’ individual lives is necessary.  Create a comprehensive composite through data from external partners, regular surveying, email and online chats, and in-person interactions. 

  3. Research which methods work 
    Most organizations are still relying heavily on passive sources for disseminating HR information, including intranets, call centers and the traditional packet during onboarding.  But 48 percent of HR professionals report their employees simply aren't reading written information, and 46 percent report they have difficulty getting employees' attention with their communications.¹  Those companies who are actively bringing relevant information in layered, interactive formats are experiencing higher engagement and utilization.  A recent survey from Aptitude Research Partners shows that the most useful employee communication (combined reporting as highly valuable/somewhat valuable) methods are as follows: Email – 92 percent, Seminars – 85 percent, Interactive Content - 74 percent, and Webinars – 69 percent.  Video and SMS continue to gain popularity at 67 and 55 percent, respectively. ² 

  4. Keep it simple, sincere and transparent
    Consumerism is transforming the workplace and the way employees expect to interact with their employers. Employees want the same simplicity in transactions, sincerity in communication, and transparency in decision-making from HR that they’re able to find in their consumer experiences in the outside world.  Don’t be afraid to be honest with employees when it comes to the selection process for benefits programs.  Every organization has limitations that impact benefits selection. The more open you are about what the company is doing to provide the very best available in the market within those restrictions, the more receptive your employees will be. 

  5. Ensure policies complement benefits
    Think about how your company’s policies (i.e., paid leave, sabbaticals, flexible working arrangements) reinforce – or diminish – your benefits program. If there isn’t continuity and relevance between the two then it’s going to detract from how effective your communications will be.  It will speak volumes if both your policies and benefits are aligned with company culture – reinforcing who you are and what your organization stands for.
     
  6. Layer, layer, layer
    It’s less about repetition and more about layers. There are multi-channel layers in the way you should market your programs and services (ex., using a combination of social media, interactive communications and face-to-face meetings).  But, there are also layers of experiences and interactions that an employee has across an entire organization. These layers come from an everyday work environment.  But also through critical moments during employee tenure like onboarding, training, or a leave of absence. They are exemplified through the choices made and shared by leadership, managers and peers.  The consistent layering of positive, culture-reinforcing experiences across your organization will create a powerful channel of communication constantly humming in the background.  And this is where employees will really hear, see and feel benefits programs come to life. 

The delivery methods of benefits communication will keep changing, but what makes it all successful in the end will stay the same.  If benefits are relevant, built around a relationship, and consistently reinforced, their message will be meaningful. It’s this meaning that will ultimately allow your communications to break through the noise and be heard. 

This post is the third in a five-part series based on the Care@Work Webinar:  Always the Right Fit – Benefits Through the Employee Experience, exploring how to attract, retain and engage your multi-generational employees. 

Endnotes:
Source: Aptitude Research Partners, "Hire, Engage, Retain Study," 2016.  All rights reserved.
Source: Aptitude Research Partners, "Hire, Engage, Retain Study," 2016.  All rights reserved.

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Heidi Erdmann-Sullivan

As Director, Sales and Marketing at Care.com, Heidi is responsible for developing innovative, results-driven programs for Care@Work – a consumer-centered portfolio of family care for employers and their diverse workforce. Passionate about helping HR professionals improve the lives of their employees, Heidi follows and writes about the top trends and research impacting both employees and employers in the workplace, including the future of work, consumerism and HR, building employer brands, pay equity and paid leave policy, and company culture. Prior to joining Care.com, Heidi led marketing teams at a variety of technology companies including Constant Contact. She lives north of Boston with her husband Brian and their “daughter” Lexi – a 10 lb. Shih-Tzu therapy dog.