Your employees have been interviewed to see which benefits they want. A benefits provider has been sourced. And your new employee benefits have been set up and rolled out. Now it’s time to sit back and do the admin, right?
Unfortunately not – at least not if you want to get the best return on your employee benefit investment.
In this article, we feature Becky Hewson-Haworth from Clarion Call Communications , she discusses the reasons organisations struggle to communicate their benefit offering, the impact good communications have on benefit scheme ROI and the impact on your organisation as a whole.
Communication Is King
No matter the size of your organisation, it’s common to find that many employees aren’t aware of the benefits on offer. Research shows that one in five employees only receive information about their benefits when they join.
This is no surprise to Emma Gleaves, Senior Consultant at Eppione, who has seen this issue first-hand: “Many staff are only told about their benefits when signing their contract or receiving a copy of the employee handbook during induction. Which means organisations are missing a trick.”
This issue isn’t restricted to smaller businesses. Even in the biggest firms, staff often aren’t aware of every benefit available and/or don’t understand how much their benefits are worth. “I’ve worked in compensation and benefits roles for a range of major UK brands,” says Becky Hewson-Haworth, owner of reward communications consultancy, Clarion Call Communications. “Even enterprises with large HR and communication teams don’t communicate their total reward package effectively. Which means organisations aren’t getting the best return on their investment.”
Poor Communications Can Lead to Serious Consequences
With a lack of reward communication, it’s hardly surprising that employees can’t name every benefit they’re entitled to. Which is problematic for staff who may:
- Spend money on cover or services that they don’t need to spend
- Sign up for benefits too late eg taking up healthcare post illness so the ailment isn’t covered
- Take time off when they could have accessed support via an employee assistance programme
- Not have cover in place that could financially protect their family should the worst happen
- Not use all their holidays only to find they could have sold them for cash
- Come to retire only to find they don’t have enough money saved in their pension
Many of these issues also have a knock-on effect to employers in terms of increased rates of sickness absence, poor performance caused by financial stress and an ageing workforce due to staff who are unable to retire.
There are many reasons for a lack of benefit communication, including lack of time and resources, insufficient understanding of the benefits available or even difficulty finding the right language to explain complex programmes clearly. So how can organisations overcome these challenges to create effective communications?
Brilliant Benefit Comms Improve Return on Investment
As with any money your organisation spends, your leaders will want to ensure it’s generating a great return. Providing benefits is an essential part of ensuring you provide a competitive reward offering but your package can do so much more than that.
Emma says: “If you’re providing benefits over and above statutory minimums or those that are highly valued, shout it from the rooftops! Remind employees that you’re investing in them, that you’re looking after them not just at work but at home and for their future. This will help improve engagement, loyalty and retention.”
Even basic communications that remind people about the different benefits available to them at relevant times of the year provides a good starting point. And this can easily be achieved by creating an annual reward communications plan.
“Be sure to use all your communication channels – like the intranet, posters, enterprise social, TV screens, manager briefings – to broadcast each benefit in different ways to your employees,” says Becky. “It might feel like you’re communicating too much but don’t forget that your staff will only see a proportion of your communications depending on the channels they use.”
Right Comms, Right Place, Right Time
Employees aren’t always in the right place to take up benefits when your enrolment windows open. For example, your staff might not need a new car or be in a position to make additional pension payments. By developing ongoing communications, you’ll keep your benefits top of mind. Which will help your employees make the most of their package when the time’s right.
To take your communication plans to new levels, consider including items like video, gamification or digital and social platforms. These add interest to your communications and provide an experience that’s closer to the one your staff receive as consumers.
Total reward statements deserve a special mention here. These graphical depictions of an individual’s total reward package – usually a pie chart that shows how much each element of the package is worth – can be used in many ways. “Many organisations produce total reward statements once a year and staff log in to a system to review them,” says Becky. “However, they can be used in other ways too, for example, when recruiting new staff or persuading potential leavers to stay.”
By demonstrating the value of your entire reward package, you could keep hold of someone who’s thinking about leaving or secure a new hire for a lower salary than you might have expected.
The Benefit Comms Pay Back
Yes, more communication means more work. But it’s well worth the investment. Research shows that employees, particularly younger staff, want more transparency and on-demand, digital information about their compensation.
And employers are responding to this. 71% of respondents to an Employee Benefits survey said that they intend to: “use better or more targeted benefit communications to adapt to future benefit challenges.”
Putting focus onto benefit communications can also pay dividends by:
- Promoting broader aspects of your wellbeing strategy to improve employees’ perceptions of you as an employer
- Educating employees about their options, helping them make the right choices and improving motivation
“By taking control of the communications around benefits, you’ll also manage the message instead of allowing misconceptions and misinformation to spread,” says Becky. This is particularly important when certain benefits have the power to engage employees with you, their employer, ensure a healthy, high-performing workforce and deliver financial security for your people and their families.
Top Tips For Benefit Communications
Great communications start before you even think about putting fingers to keyboard. As Emma says: “Involve employees in any changes to benefits – listen to and understand what they want so you can provide benefits that will give people what they need. Consider outsourcing the communication writing if you’re trying to explain complex benefits or you’re making changes that will impact an employees’ future or take home pay.”
If doing it yourself is your best option, follow these tips for good communication:
- Consider the employee experience – the message has to be understood so drop jargon and use easy-to-understand language and design
- Use real-life situations and examples – case studies are much more powerful than the organisation telling staff what they think they want to hear
- Use the right channels for your employee demographic – apps, webinars, videos, workshops, presentations and wellbeing weeks can all be used in addition to written material and posters
- Support your managers – communications designed specifically for them will keep them in the know and on message
A great tip from the marketing world is to focus on creating messages that will connect with your employees. “Many businesses focus on talking about benefits from an organisational perspective,” says Becky. “This can make staff switch off and results in the messaging being less impactful. By really understanding your employees, you can find the words that will cut through and land.”
Benefit communications is the equivalent of your internal marketing. You don’t have to spend big, but you do need to spend smart. Follow the tips in this article and you’ll be well on your way to driving an even better return on your benefit investment.