Simplify benefits communication to improve employee engagement

Employee engagement is intrinsically linked to organisational effectiveness, productivity and profitability. According to research by Korn Ferry Hay Group, people who are both motivated and equipped to do their jobs effectively are 50 per cent more likely to outperform expectations and 54 per cent less likely to leave. The government-backed MacLeod Report found a clear link between engagement and an increase in competitiveness and business performance.

A key component of engagement is reward. Research conducted by the Chartered Institute of Payroll Professionals shows 85 per cent of workers rate flexible employee benefits as either “very important” or “important” to them. Often, though, the financial value of the benefits package is underestimated by employees, meaning employers need to put more effort into educating staff about just what it is they receive in addition to their basic salary.

Organisations that want to make their benefit communications more successful must put a clear strategy in place. This should set out what messages need to be communicated and how the information will be shared. It should also consider any obstacles to overcome, and the desired objectives and employee actions.

Using the “EASY” communication model

Successful communications have to make an impact. People receive hundreds of marketing messages every day and they make snap decisions on what to review, ignore or delete. The “EASY” communication model can help guide the content creation process to create more meaningful and accessible messaging.

Emotional: Employees make decisions about benefits with their hearts as much as their heads, so messages should have appeal on both the emotional and intellectual levels. Communication can help employees understand the basics of their benefits, but only when it feels right will they start to engage actively in the process, take ownership of their decisions and value what is being provided.

Benefits communication must embrace a more sophisticated and personalised approach

Appealing: If it doesn’t stand out and demand attention, if it’s not obviously worth reading or easy to understand, it will be ignored. That lengthy “benefits guide”, bland e-mail about “open enrolment” or detailed factsheet has to compete against 300 or more marketing messages a day for employees’ attention.

Simple: Benefits communication is often focused solely on being compliant, with less thought about the person at the other end. Avoid jargon. Keep sentences short. And always make it clear what employees need to do with the communication they are receiving. If it’s just for their information, say that. If it’s because they need to make a decision, say that too, but communicate clearly what they should do.

You-focused: Employees experience many events throughout their careers – entering the workforce, getting married, having a child, getting ready for retirement. They require education and tools at each major life-stage to ensure they are prepared for what is ahead of them. Learn from the techniques used by consumer-focused marketing and advertising experts to engage customers. Benefits communication must embrace a more sophisticated and personalised approach. Human resources and benefit specialists must rethink how they communicate internally to reflect the preferences of the very different audiences that now occupy the workplace.

Effective communications can help employees understand their benefits and make sound, informed choices. With greater transparency about the total compensation package, employee appreciation and engagement rises, boosting organisational performance. In a significant way, employee communications can have a positive impact on the bottom line.

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