Findings from a recent best-in-class analysis show how midsize and large employers managed to transcend the ordinary in their approaches to employee and organizational wellbeing. Three key themes emerged:
- Connecting with employees through a validated multi-channel communication strategy
- Driving engagement by recognizing employee performance
- Prioritizing workforce wellbeing and aligning support to elevate the employee experience.1
Connecting with employees through a validated multi-channel communication strategy
Best-in-class organizations tend to connect better with employees because they're more likely to use a tested and validated communication strategy to optimize their work culture.1 Multiple channels and a "work from anywhere" philosophy are critical elements of this approach. While their communications most often focus on physical (37%) and organizational (20%) wellbeing, widening the scope to include emotional, career and financial aspects can enhance outcomes for all organizations.2
When employers plan multi-channel communications with a complete understanding of relevant employee demographics in mind, they're better positioned for success. Regardless of the results, making adjustments based on metrics, documented data and other information on past communication success drives improvement and refines best practices. Preparation also appears to pay off. At nearly twice the rate of their peers, best-in-class employers agree their communication efforts create tangible results or behavior change.1
Best practices call for unique communication patterns. Depending on the target audience and the intended purpose, the most effective messages may vary in content, style and tone but still leave employees feeling supported. Besides email — which has its place when details are necessary — using other delivery methods to capture attention can help support communication objectives.
Humanizing communications — engaging employees as people rather than commodities — draws more interest and response. Further, applying this approach across each career stage enhances the employee experience.
Demonstrating transparency and expressing empathy
Communications have the potential to shape work culture like nothing else can. Every day, business gets done at both group and individual levels. And in largely remote or hybrid environments, communication has quickly become almost synonymous with culture.
Working from home has expanded the focus of the work-life conversation from individual balance to cooperative coexistence, on a much larger scale. And this shift presents ample opportunities for employers to strengthen connections between distanced employees by encouraging transparency and creating empathy. The ability to build culture through communication is likely to become a critical people metric of the future.
Laying the groundwork for constructive communication avoids the destructive risk of remaining silent or inadequately communicating when the organization faces significant issues. Just the simple act of acknowledging issues helps to reduce uncertainty and ease insecurity.
Honesty about unwelcome developments builds trust, and employees feel more respected when their employer guides them through a challenging period of change. For example, when layoffs are imminent, employers may offer options like interview coaching, resume reviews and internal transfers. When actions like these are taken, employees may think differently not only about the circumstances, but also the organization itself. Optimizing the employee experience from start to finish inspires more lifelong brand advocates.
Driving engagement by recognizing the impact of employee performance
Equitable, competitive and transparent pay practices boost and maintain career wellbeing. For best-in-class employers, pursuing this standard often includes looking for effective ways to link both individual and organizational performance to compensation.1 Reviewing recent labor market data when defining metrics within goals or key performance indicators is part of this approach. Some employers conduct custom salary surveys in between their annual efforts to get up-to-date insights that guide better decisions about base and short-term incentive plans.
When creating pay grades and salary ranges, a solidly designed and well-maintained cash compensation structure is key. This framework specifies job values based on current job-by-job market data and relative internal consistency. At a macro level, the advantages include improvements in cost effectiveness, pay equity and overall competitiveness.
Once established, it's important to update the salary structure for labor market inflation. Other best practices include setting job classifications at the 50th percentile — or higher depending on competitive philosophy — and verifying that actual salaries align with the updated grade midpoints.
Hiring and retention bonuses require some caution to help ensure costs don't outweigh the benefits. As a hiring solution, a bonus may be expedient but usually creates immediate pay inequities that often become problematic later on. For instance, employees may try to reclaim this lost opportunity by seeking employment elsewhere. Certain considerations apply to retention bonuses, too. Careful design and a systematic and well-communicated approach work best to achieve the desired long-term results.
Some employers are designing a cash-based long-term incentive plan of two to five years. This plan uses the same formula for the entire workforce to evaluate achievement of performance goals, at the organizational, team and individual levels. After the employee has vested, it pays on a rolling basis and the amount vested increases over time as metrics are continually met. Setup often requires dedicated time and effort, but equitably designed evaluation criteria improve performance while payouts incent retention.
Prioritizing workforce wellbeing and aligning support to elevate the employee experience
The connection between employee and organizational wellbeing has become an organizing principle for guiding a best-in-class approach that promotes total wellbeing. Since 2020, employers that excel are more likely to have increased their focus on all dimensions of wellbeing — physical, emotional, career and financial.1