Although employee benefits are – as the name quite obviously suggests – there to benefit employees, it can be difficult to communicate exactly what benefits are available, what these benefits actually do, and how they can be accessed.
Research has found that, for many businesses, uptake of benefits is quite low. But employers can’t afford to put this down to lazy staff members – the same research found that four out of five employers with low uptake of employee benefits haven’t actually done anything to boost engagement with the program.
This is why developing a comms plan is important. Just because a benefits package is available doesn’t guarantee that benefits will actually be used by your staff, affecting the return on investment these benefits provide. If your comms plan is successful, you’ll be able to clearly measure that success based on uptake in involvement.
Roll it out slowly
First things first – give your staff some advance notice that benefits will be available, rather than simply launching a package without warning. Build the excitement.
Early comms should gradually introduce employees to the concept of a benefits program, how it will work, how they sign up, and what will be available – so when the benefits platform launches, they are fully involved, and know exactly what they have to do to access the benefits they want.
Yes, it takes time and thought– but consider the alternative. Suddenly giving employees access to benefits means they have to take time out of their day to research, learn and reflect upon what it is, what they get… and then sign up.
Without laying the groundwork to get staff invested, they may just brush it aside – particularly if it requires any effort (even as simple as filling out a form!) or costs (whether upfront or from sacrificed salary) on their part.
However your comms plan takes shape, ensure that it’s not just a one-way street. This is a big part of why rolling out employee benefits slowly is so important – it gives your staff the opportunity to feedback, ask questions, and tell you what they want.
Benefits need to actually be relevant for people to use them. It’s particularly unlikely that this example would ever apply but, as a broad example, why would you offer childcare when no one in your office has children?
As a more realistic example, you may find interest in benefits for affordable public transport is low because people generally drive in – perhaps because your company is located in an out-of-town business park that discourages people from getting the bus. But a cycle-to-work scheme may be of interest to those looking to change up their commute.
There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to employee benefits, and the needs of your staff will differ to another organisation, no matter how similar you are – the only way to determine this, of course, is to actually ask your employees what they are interested in, what they think would help them, and what just isn’t relevant.
How to communicate?
There are a lot of different ways to deliver your comms plan to your employees – and given that we’re living in the 21st century, few of them will involve the office notice board. Let’s take a look at some of the options, and the pros and cons of each – of course, if you’re rolling out slowly, then there will be the opportunity to use them all.
The internal email is the easiest way to keep your employees in the loop of any changes and plans – or upcoming benefits programs. Just draft a message to the all@ group and you’re on your way. It’ll only take a few minutes.
Email works because you can include links to sources, perhaps attach a Google Form for staff to indicate their preferences, and it’s all right there on your employees’ screens. They can refer back to it – and if it gets deleted, someone else can always forward it on.
Of course, can you really trust that every employee in your organisation is a diligent reader of every email? Emails – especially group emails that aren’t relevant to today’s work – can all-too-easily be ignored.
Just about every worker in the UK has access to email – but it’s also important to remember that not everyone does. For example, do your cleaning, security or maintenance staff have an individual work email address? It’s becoming increasingly unlikely that there are unconnected employees in your organisation, but it’s still not something you can take for granted.
They are either the most direct way possible, or a logistical nightmare, depending on the size of your organisation – but in many cases there’s no better method for keeping people informed than sitting them down and talking to them.
If your organisation has an annual whole team meeting or presentation from senior staff, then it’s the perfect opportunity to inform employees of plans for an employee benefit scheme – followed up with a reminder email, of course.
For organisations with hundreds – or thousands – of employees, this could be something that is delegated to managers to go through with their individual teams. The benefit of delivering news in person is that it’s very direct, and allows questions from the audience – the downside is that anyone off sick or in meetings that day will need filling in at a later date.
Company videos are a great option – they can be delivered at a presentation, or in an email, and they provide a fantastic opportunity to sum up a new employee benefits program in a short clip that can be re-watched at an individual’s leisure.
Video is, of course, difficult to get right – and a bad one can certainly be an embarrassment. Bad lighting, dodgy sound and shaky camera work will hardly send out the best message. But if you have the resources to put something good together, it can be the best way to communicate a lot of information in an engaging way.
Purpose is key
However you decide to communicate, it’s important to ensure that every message has a purpose, providing new information. Ask the question, “does this tell people anything new?” – if not, it’s likely to just get ignored.
Of course, you will need to remind people that the plan is available – but ensure your reminders are more than a nudge. Consider using case studies to show how benefits have helped staff, or practical examples showing how much they could save.
Should you segment your audience?
When marketers try and communicate with the wider world, they won’t simply send out the same message to everyone. Different people of different backgrounds and ages have different methods of consuming information, and will engage differently with different things.
It’s important to remember that people of different ages, for example, will not necessarily be interested in the same benefits. Bombarding employees in their late teens or early twenties with messages about childcare, for example, is not the best way to inspire uptake – but consider instead that they may be more likely to commute by public transport rather than owning a car, and will be far more interested in help affording their rail fare.
The method of communication can also differ by age – younger people may be more inclined to engage with the company they work for on social media, and may see messages this way, while older employees may engage better with a print info pack. It’s not just a stereotype that younger people will have a shorter attention span – so keep these messages concise compared to those directed at older staff.
However, the downside to segmenting your audience too much is that it means that different employees may be receiving different information, which can lead to confusion, or accusations of unfairness if some people haven’t been told about a benefit they would like to use because it’s less suited to their general demographic. It is a decision to be made carefully, and handled sensitively.
This is a very simple comms plan that will work best for small organisations, or larger companies with devolved teams. For more information on building an in-depth content plan, take a look at this guidance from P&MM Motivation.
Need some help?
Planning and rolling out an employee benefits program can seem like a challenge – but it doesn’t have to be. Contact us today if you have any questions about how we can help you plan, implement and manage a benefits platform for your staff.
comms plan, employee benefits