The Goals Of Employee Benefit Communications

Employee communications should link the goals of the HR and benefits departments with employee awareness, commitment and engagement. Messages from HR tend to concentrate on issues that have the most impact on the value of the employment experience: compensation, benefits, career development, training and work-life balance.

That means the effectiveness of these communications has a lot to do with how employees view their jobs. According to the 2012 Aon Consulting Benefits and Talent survey, one-third of employers believe communications have a significant impact on employee appreciation of the employment “deal.”

With unemployment expected to ease, retaining and engaging employees will again be a critical issue for C-suite leaders. Yet, over the last several years, job satisfaction has been on the decline, with only 45% of Americans being satisfied with their jobs, as reported in the 2013 edition of The Conference Board annual job satisfaction survey.

In a recent study by CareerBuilder, 24% of workers report that they no longer feel loyal to their current company and 19% intend to leave this year. So, what can an organization do?

Clearly, employee communications play a critical role in engaging employees. But even the savviest organizational leaders can be challenged when it comes to effectively reaching their employees. How do you connect with employees when they represent different generations, cultures and communications styles? Should you integrate social media into your communications strategy? How do you get the most value for your communications dollar? What is the best way to deliver eco-friendly communications?

As employers consider how to modernize their employee communications strategies to succeed in today’s business environment – and look to you for help – they may have to answer some or all of these questions. The responses will depend on each organization’s culture and employee population. It’s a challenging balance that requires finding the right mix of the new and the “tried and true.”

There are many ways in which new media can be used to engage employees from recruitment through retirement. With some creativity and a little IT help, social media can help employers rethink their HR communications beyond the traditional forms.

Everyone is aware of the diversity of today’s workforce. For the first time in American history, four different eras are represented in the workforce. Generally defined by age or generation, these groups can be loosely defined as:

  • Generation Y – born after 1982
  • Generation X – born between 1960 and 1982
  • Baby Boomers – born between 1943 and 1960
  • Traditionalists – born before 1943

Each of these generations has been shaped by the experiences of their time, which affects their approach and preferences for work and communications. For example, consider how the telephone has evolved for each generation:

  • Generation Y – everyone has a cell phone and can be reached anytime, anywhere.
  • Generation X – home phones became cordless and cell phones were introduced but, early on, were too big to fit into a pocket.
  • Baby Boomers – push-button phones were the new innovation.
  • Traditionalists – party line phones were not unusual and phone numbers often started with letters, not numbers.

Layered on top of generational differences, employee demographics are diverse and multicultural. So, while there is a strong temptation to embrace technology, new media and eco-friendly methods of communications distribution, it’s important to consider the effectiveness traditional communications methods may have for the organization, such as mailing to the home and face-to-face meetings.

If a large percentage of your workforce does not have access to a computer at work, you risk alienating these employees with a heavy reliance on electronic communications. In addition, there is research that shows that both print and Web “cues” are needed to make electronic communications perform as well as traditional print.

Learning information on the Web can be difficult because of the distractions of its interactive nature, such as following hyperlinks, navigating the site, scrolling down, etc. Therefore, if the information you need to share requires concentrated attention and careful decision-making, you may need to offer a variety of media, including print and in-person meetings.

Plus, the low-tech method of mailing communications to the home enables you to reach a very important audience – employees’ families.

A matter of balance

As you navigate the new frontiers available in employee communications, you may feel you are in a world where you don’t speak the language, completely fluent and well-acclimated, or somewhere in between. But, no matter how you integrate new approaches and techniques into your employee communications strategy, keep in mind these guiding principles:

  • Know your audience and its communications preferences.
  • Make your messages clear and communicate them in ways employees will understand.
  • Know how you need the information to be used by your workforce.

This will help ensure you have the right balance of communications methods that engage employees and achieve your communications objectives.