As a human resource professional, one aspect of your job is to keep employees informed of all the great benefits your company offers. You invest time and energy into finding the right partners, advocating on behalf of your employees, and keeping employees productive, healthy, and happy. But sometimes it can be tough to break through the noise of deadlines, the constant barrage of emails, nonstop meetings, and more.
Let’s look at this from your employees’ perspective: You get recruited, come in for multiple rounds of interviews, and land the job. Along the way, someone from HR briefly explains to you the company’s benefits and perks which sound really exciting and useful. On the first day you’re handed a stack of paperwork to fill out – W9s, 401(k) registrations, health insurance forms – and thick packets detailing company policies and employee benefits. It’s overwhelming. Months pass, and you settle into your job. And all those packets? They live under a thick layer of desk dust. It’s easy to forget that your company offers subsidized backup childcare, wellness stipends, discounts to stores, museums or experiences, and more.
As employee stewards and culture creators, HR professionals have an opportunity to empower employees. A big part of that is keeping company benefits top of mind. Because, in a competitive labor market, benefits are a competitive advantage. Nearly 80 percent of employees say they’d prefer new or extra benefits to a raise, according to a Glassdoor survey. For Millennials, who represent more than one-third of the U.S. workforce, benefits are even more sacred; 89 percent prefer benefits and perks to raises when compared to older employees, and 83 percent would switch jobs for better benefits.
To connect and engage with employees, HR pros have to think – and act – like marketers. Here’s how.
Use storytelling to engage continuously
Too often, employees only hear from their human resources colleagues a few times a year, like during onboarding or open enrollment season. These are, of course, critical engagements, but they’re one-off and not enough. Find ways to “market” benefits continuously throughout the year through storytelling – both inside the company and outside, for recruitment. You could send a monthly internal newsletter that features employees who have used company benefits to help them navigate important life moments. Or, you could run a weekly LinkedIn series highlighting employees who received their MBA through tuition reimbursement or went skydiving on their birthday day off. Tell their stories, get creative, and stay at it.
Build relationships around life’s milestones
The workday may last 9 to 5, but life happens 24/7/365. When qualifying life events occur, use them as opportunities to build closer relationships with employees. Come to them from a place of understanding and support. Remind employees of all the benefits that can help them navigate life’s happy (often stressful) achievements, like becoming a new parent, sending a kid off to college, getting a new pet, or moving to a new home. Depending on what’s available, help could come in the form of housekeeping services, backup child care, college prep help, or even “fur-turnity” leave. Whatever life is throwing at them, there’s probably a benefit your company offers that can help. They just need your help finding it.
Secure leadership’s endorsement
Leadership sets the company tone. So when execs and managers fail to use employee benefits, or don’t use them to their fullest, chances are the rest of the company won’t, either. When the CEO becomes a new dad but doesn’t take the full amount of family leave available, it pressures other new dads in the office to follow suit. And when your workaholic manager only takes three days off a year – despite your company’s unlimited vacation day policy – everyone stops taking much-needed time off for fear that it will “look bad.” The best leaders walk the walk and inspire others to walk with them. Work closely with the C-suite and senior leadership to ensure they are leading by example. Then, help them broadcast the importance of using benefits throughout the entire company – through emails, at all-staff meetings, or wherever their voice can be heard.
Take an omnichannel approach to communication
There’s more than one medium to “market” your benefits. Of course, there’s internal channels: your intranet, your Slack channel, email updates, company meetings. These are all great places to make it easy for employees to learn about, access, and use their benefits. But busy employees sometimes tune these channels out. Think outside the usual communication box. Set up HR-specific social media feeds on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn to communicate your benefits, then suggest that people subscribe to know the latest in their benefits. Post “benefit billboards” around the office, do benefit “desk drops,” and create “immersion rooms” to physically show how benefits can be used.
Use a human voice to engage humans
Too often, employees say that communication from human resources never really feels all that human. The irony is that a lot of the benefits HR communicates end up being used for human, highly personal reasons. It’s just explained in a corporate jargon-y voice. That immediately makes benefits feel inaccessible, and, as a result, employees ignore them. Take care to communicate to employees the way you’d want to be spoken to. Be sincere, simple, warm, and empathetic. Where appropriate, be funny. Use GIFs, videos, and emojis. None of us likes inauthentic or cold communication that feels like it came down from the corporate ivory tower.
Benefits are a vital part of employment. It’s up to you to make sure your employees are using them. Mix strategy with storytelling, tactics with creativity, and always be pushing beyond the limits of “HR.” Think, and act, like a marketer.