Employers rely on communications to connect their workforce with the many aspects of their culture. Communicating well isn’t always easy, but properly targeting messages and getting them across clearly pays dividends not only in employee engagement, but also in the achievement of benefit objectives.
A recent benchmarking survey found that employers collectively recognize they have room to improve their employee communications. In fact, a sizable 60% said that more effective communications would help them better manage their HR challenges and opportunities.¹
Tie communications to metricsWhen employers are thinking about building or refining their communications strategy, they should guide decisions based on their answers to these primary questions: How are communications linked to business objectives? What employee behaviors should the communications change? And how will success be measured?
Two fairly common miscues are setting a goal that’s too broad and using metrics that are too narrow. Valuable communication insights come from specific objectives that are meaningful, and a more deliberate approach that accurately tracks progress because it’s linked to behavior.
For instance, consider an HR and benefits team that believes 50% of the workforce is choosing the wrong healthcare benefits, and wants to help them make better decisions. A campaign encouraging employees to align their benefit choices with their healthcare needs would look a lot different than simply communicating benefits information. The team’s ability to measure success would differ, too.
They’d gain a valuable opportunity to track changes in the percentage of employees making misaligned choices. A metric like this can be meaningful across the organization, even up to the C-suite, unlike click rates that don’t gauge behavioral change or its impact on business objectives.
Behavioral change occurs when employees receive personalized communications, throughout the year, about topics that influence benefits enrollment choices. But generalized messages often lose out in the competition for eyeballs — unseen in a constant stream of higher-priority emails and texts that often require a quicker response. What does divert attention and motivate action is communication that’s personalized to an employee’s situation in life. For this purpose, data is typically segmented by one or more characteristics that include age, gender and location. But often these categories are too broad.
Personalize communications appropriately
Technology can refine audience segmentation to create a more targeted profile. A practical example is using a benefits website to build awareness of individual needs and preferences. Employees could be directed to a page that asks them to answer a few defining questions when they log in for the first time, and periodically thereafter.
Responses to these questions classify each person by categories and recommend information that may interest them based on their life stage. For instance, those whose financial goals include paying off student loan debt will receive a different set of communications than coworkers looking to treat a chronic illness, expand their family or prioritize retirement savings.
Understand that communication is continuous
Employee engagement surveys consistently find that many respondents want more effective employee communications. When interpreting the variations on this desire, it’s important to understand that communication is constant — intended or not. Silence can be a form of expression that sometimes carries an unintended and possibly consequential message.
Timing of communications should always be strategic. Otherwise a break in contact can be a missed opportunity to fill an important information need.
Employers help themselves by taking a comprehensive approach to communication, but many have been slow to formulate a strategic plan (13%).¹ It’s important to recognize that successful communication is like the last 100 yards of a marathon. Each effort builds on all the prior elements of strategic planning and tactical execution to engage employees appropriately. And all of these elements must be aligned to prevent communications from falling flat.
Recognize that communication connects all possibilities and outcomes
Setting well-defined communication goals in advance and owning the whole process from planning through analysis establishes a strong and vital connection with employees. That connection strengthens brand value because it’s part of a broader circuit that interlinks not only current, but also future employees, customers and everyone in between. Better communications are conducive to better experiences and relationships, and brighter growth prospects for employers through greater employee and organizational wellbeing.
This article is an excerpt from our 2019 Organizational Wellbeing & Talent Insights Report – U.S. Edition.
Managing Director, Employee Communication Practice
Ben leads a dedicated team of employee communication specialists, guiding their success in creating connections that help clients drive business objectives and organizational wellbeing through employee engagement. Under his direction, the practice continues to grow across the globe.
¹Arthur J. Gallagher & Co., “2018 Benefits Strategy & Benchmarking Survey,” November 2018