Choosing the best way to communicate with your workforce takes thought
We look at the different ways you can get your message to where you need.
You’ve done your homework, you’ve discussed employee benefit options and you’ve got manager buy-in. You may have even held employee workshops to get direct feedback about which benefits workers prefer. Now all you need to do is to communicate your new employee benefits programme with the rest of the company. Simple, right? Unfortunately there’s a bit more to it than that.
Now that the connected universe has driven most employee interactions online, it seems we’re losing the art of good communication. It’s easier than ever to miss important emails and messages. How many times have you sent an email into the ether only to be met with a wall of silence, making you wonder if anyone has actually read it? We’re betting quite a few.
In today’s modern working environment, skimming and scanning has become common practice. For something as important as communicating employee benefits, this just isn’t good enough. And it’s part of the reason that physical communications are still just as important as digital ones.
So, how can you be sure your employees aren’t going to miss out?
ARE YOU TALKING TO ME?
When it comes to employee benefits, there’s a real need for employees to respond to and opt in to what’s on offer. It’s for this reason that it’s key for companies to blend a mix of digital and physical communications to reach out to everyone within their organisation.
James Malia, ‘Director of Employee Benefits’ at Sodexo says, “Often the people who are hardest to reach, such as shop floor staff, are receiving the lowest salaries, and as such have far more to gain from using employee benefits. It’s a challenge, and it’s why we never lose sight of physical methods of communication, and why we’re always thinking of new ones too.”
We know there’s no shortcut to boosting employee engagement, but reaching out to them with tailored online and offline communication around company benefits will certainly increase take-up and make sure your staff sit up and take note.
DON’T ASK ME, I JUST WORK HERE
Our culture is shifting to one where people find it easier to do things using a screen but not everyone has good internet access, depending on their role and where they’re located. In fact, as many as 40% of people don’t have internet access at work.
The bottom line is, where we work impacts engagement. If you’re part of a massive organisation, the chances are there will be vast swathes of people who are all working in different environments and in different ways.
Many people sit in an office rarely leaving their computer, even though the days of presenteeism may well be numbered. Perhaps you have staff who work remotely or in satellite offices. You may also have people on shop floors or working across warehouses and factories. It’s important to bear these different roles and locations in mind when considering how best to communicate to employees.
Smaller gestures are also just as important – make sure your team leaders are encouraging their teams to work sensible hours, take full lunch breaks and use their full annual leave. These are all rights they're completely entitled to, but often the first things to be sacrificed during particularly busy periods.
Head Office - It’s easier to speak in person with someone if you’re in the same building as them. Arranging a team meeting or a presentation can be an effective way to impart your message. It’s also quicker to understand and, done properly, way more engaging.
Shop floor – from warehouse staff to factory workers, posters and brochures in break out areas are a good way to get in front of people who have limited access to the internet. Starting a conversation in this way can really help to spread the word.
Satellite offices – these people are likely to have good email access and keep their eyes on the company intranet to stay connected. But don’t rule out brochures and personal visits as an effective way of keeping in touch with them.
Flexible and part-time workers – if you’re organising team meetings, make sure you do it at a time when the majority of people are likely to be in the office – Mondays and Fridays are usually a no-no. With flexible working likely to be the main way of working for 70% of organisations by 2020, finding the right time will mean you don’t end up wasting yours.
Remote workers – a working option that’s on the rise, remote workers practice good communication as a matter of course. Emails will be read but a phone call or letter is a good way to make them feel included and ensure they don’t miss important company news.
Facilities staff – these employees might not have email access, working shifts and patterns that don’t match other workers in your company. They might be receptionists, security staff or cleaners who won’t have time for reading posters in break out areas so make sure they have something to take home.
Mobile workers – delivery drivers, travelling sales teams and support staff are just some who won’t have a fixed workplace. They may have limited email and phone access so multiple channels of communication will be vital in attracting this audience’s attention
RIGHT PERSON, RIGHT WAY?
If different working environments weren’t enough of a headache for HR Directors and Managers, workplace demographics can also affect how you communicate your employee benefits programme.
Does age matter?
Well, it could. If you run a technology company that sells mobile phones and the average age of shop floor staff is under thirty, you might want to solely communicate with staff in the digital sphere. Yet if you’re targeting parents, a print run of brochures might be a better option. That way, workers can take them away and look at them with a partner before making decisions.
Don’t make the mistake of shutting down methods of communication based on your own ideas about age though – older people are adopting social media faster than any other age group so they’re just as connected as younger workers. If you work with a lot of women, social media can be an effective supporting communication tool for this audience.
Think location, location.
Employees who work in urban areas will be better connected than ones in rural areas where broadband and mobile signals could be unreliable. Snail mail could be a better option to reach these audiences with a good old piece of touchy-feely direct mail. It’s certainly more memorable in many cases and will be appreciated.
PRINT. TIME FOR A COMEBACK?
While we’re on that note, retro is in, so is it time for the written word to get physical again? Company brochures can be useful pieces of communication to refer to. The tangible entity is also a tactile and more memorable way for people to engage with the company brand as a whole. A PDF just doesn’t seem to cut it in quite the same way. It’s read once and then forgotten about in the depths of a deep, dark and very full inbox.
James says, “Lots of companies still do print brochures – but we think they need to make a bit more of a comeback!” Sure, there’s a perceived cost barrier here and it’s one reason people have moved towards cheap, instant digital messages. But these also cost time and money to put together to get the open rates and take-up you need.
If you do go down the digital route, think about best times of days for sending out communications. Mid-week is usually a good time and often part-time workers will also be in the office then too. Send an email late on a Friday and you’d be better off just heading straight to the pub instead.
James adds, “Sometimes actually printing a letter and signing it by hand makes the biggest impact – it might seem a bit outdated, but digital communications can be so oversaturated. It really cuts through the noise when there’s something really essential to communicate, and comes with a personal touch that can be difficult to replicate with an email.”
THE PERSONAL TOUCH GOES A LONG WAY
If you can personalise communications, you’re more likely to draw your target audience first time. As marketing departments know, when you have less than a minute to engage someone with your message, personalisation is a strong way of doing it. Go one step further, and communicate face to face and bingo – your message is out there and more likely to be remembered.
The same is true for digital content. Less than a third of emails are opened, but if you can warm your audience up first – with a workshop or team meeting, you’ll have more luck with open rates, and the take-up of employee benefits afterwards.
GET UP CLOSE AND INTERACTIVE
Whether it's childcare vouchers, cycle to work programmes, or employee discount schemes, holiday buy back or salary sacrifice schemes, we can help your staff to get on board with the employee benefits available to them.
Employee benefit providers often run roadshows and workshops that have proved highly effective for reaching multiple audiences. These interactive experiences help to promote employee engagement, stimulating discussion and in turn, building a a positive workplace culture. They’re further supported with online and offline communications to really bring the message home.
James says, “The best method for different people will really vary – you’ve got to pay attention to what people respond to, and build these communication strategies from the ground up.” A mix of communication methods – physical and digital – can really have an impact on take-up rates of employee benefits.
You’ve come this far so getting it right is crucial. By keeping communications targeted, relevant and limited, employers stand to improve talent retention, increase employee and workplace engagement and create a positive working environment for all. That’s a win-win situation in our books.