Communicate to engage
How to communicate like a pro to drive employee engagement
The disruption and innovation caused by the new wave of HR tech businesses means that today HR teams have never had such a powerful array of tools to support, engage and reward their employees.
However, each of these new tools in the HR toolkit can only fulfil its potential if employees know about and want to use them.
Based on our experience of helping organisations inspire their employees to make the most of the investment and support available to them, here are our five areas every HR team needs to consider in creating a high-impact benefits communications plan.
Think of the employee as a consumer
Every day we consume a diet of comms from brands, influencers, friends and people through social media, messaging apps and email.
Regardless of the channel, the ones that stand out are the ones that are helpful, timely, amusing or informative.
Apart from the sin of never communicating at all, the other great mistake organisations make in employee communications is taking an approach which is precisely opposite to this. Boring, badly timed messages which seem disconnected to the interests of your employees will always be ignored.
For high impact benefit communications, it pays to start from scratch and think about your employee as a consumer. Rather than simply ‘telling’, think about how you can best sell your benefits proposition by connecting with the things that matter to them through different points of the year.
58% of employees are not aware of their benefits entitlement and 63% unsure how to access it
(Source: HBR, 2020)
Identify and target different employee segments in your messaging
If relevance of communications is key to improved impact, then a second area that organisations should focus on is segmenting your workforce so that you can tailor content, style and method of communication to different audiences.
One of the best starting points is understanding how different roles will influence the timing, channel and format of the messages you need to send. While field-workers may value a mobile-first approach, office-based workers may like to keep all things work-related in their email, on their desktop. Line managers will have different information needs altogether so they can answer queries and relay messages when needed. The point is one size doesn’t fit all.
There’s no reason why segmentation shouldn’t extent further to reflect other interests or lifestyle themes, as far as possible: Are they first or second jobbers? Do they have school aged children or own a home or car? Where do they live and work?
Using this data to provide staff with information about benefits that meet a personal need is a powerful way of boosting interest and engagement with employee benefits.
Segmenting emails delivers a 10% increase in open rate
Develop employee personas
Segmenting provides a lot of useful data but can feel unwieldy to use in discussions with colleagues. Creating employee personas who embody or typify a set of key characteristics in different segments is a great way to bring the data to life and focus on how your people think and act. This makes it much easier to discuss the best way to engage a persona over data. Although it may feel like extra work, it is proven to increase the effectiveness of your communication and, as a result engagement in your employee benefits proposition. When it comes to developing personas, involve colleagues and test your ideas to ensure they are truly reflective of your people.
Ten areas to consider in your employee personas:
Focus on information needs
Another cornerstone of effective employee communication is the ability to take to heart and put in to practice the mantra “less is more”.
To bring economy and focus to your employee messages, start by asking yourself what people genuinely need, rather thinking about everything you have to say.
In our information-saturated lives, signposting with well-chosen words and images will always be better than swamping people with text and documents.
Dialling down the quantity and frequency of communication will ensure that when you do have something to say, it has greater impact.
Equally, reducing your reliance on broadcasting messages in favour of in-person communication in team meetings or from line-managers will also improve its effectiveness.
Information needs will vary depending on where people are in the employment cycle. New starters and job movers will require different information about pensions and benefits entitlements to colleagues who remain in the same job year-on-year.
An overarching comms plan should identify how and when you communicate with your people, carving out space for different campaigns and initiatives through the calendar year.
Measure and build on what works
Great employee communication is a key part of your employee experience. Done well it should inform and create engagement between individuals and the organisation.
Key to success is building on what works and identifying the areas which are falling flat. While data gathering is important, so too is taking time to ask and listen to your employees about what is grabbing their attention and why.
Look outside your own organisation and learn what other employers are doing. Checking out the case studies of the companies who win the CIPD or employee benefits awards is one way of doing that. So too is spending time with peers at industry events such as the REBA conferences which are focused on employee engagement and wellbeing.
Communications Account Manager, Edenred