Communicating about employee benefits and Total Rewards programs and changes can be challenging. This is especially difficult when your employees are not sitting at desks and are hard to reach.

Good news! New research tells us there are ways to cut through the clutter and engage employees in a new conversation.

1. Be Audience-Centric (whenever possible)

One big advantage of technology, including basic email and list management tools, is that we can segment groups by audience, enrollment status, geography, and other simple filters. Think about your audiences for each communication and customize your message to reach the right people for the right reasons, and at the right time.

2. Keep it Simple

Similar to marketing, look for the hook. After you capture attention, there is an opportunity to move from awareness to understanding. Be bold, have fun, and experiment with colorful headers and subject lines. Then, focus on simple messaging with a clear call to action so employees can access more information.

3. Maintain a Drumbeat

The old adage is three ways (communications channels), three different times. It may feel like more work, but it’s also OK to repeat content across channels. Create everything at once and then schedule each post, email, or conversation if you can. Once your template or framework is created, it gets easier (and faster) moving forward.

4. Pilot New Communications Tech

Employee communications technology is better, faster, and cheaper. There are ways to reach employees who might want to opt-in for texts, use simple mobile apps with notifications, inexpensive digital signage platforms, and basic email templates (with analytics). Don’t hesitate to pilot new ways of reaching people and you might be surprised by how effective (and easy) a new communications channel can be.

5. Looks Matter

Don’t miss an opportunity to stand out with modern branding and visual design. Benefits are an important part of our lives and are very meaningful to us and our families. This provides a wonderful context for inspirational colors and thoughtful design. Although it may not be conscious for everyone, good design feels good (and drives engagement).

6. Create a Simple Strategy and a Plan

Your strategy helps determine your approach to content and messaging, prioritize audiences, confirm the right channels, and support measurement. It’s an evolving decision framework that should change over time once you have a sense of what is working. Your plan includes communications timing and tactics. Both are important, and you can’t have one without the other.

7. Celebrate With Stories

It feels good to hear stories about how taking advantage of employee benefits positively impacts colleagues and their families. These stories exist everywhere and occur almost every day. Be a story collector. Ensure everyone knows your team seeks stories and examples of benefits in action. Then, share short stories across your communication channels to strengthen understanding and participation for all the right reasons. 

8. Prioritize People Managers

It doesn’t feel good not to have answers. Your People Managers are often the first to receive simple questions about employee benefits, and they need to know the basics. This includes where to go for more information, what programs are new or interesting, important dates for enrollment, and special offers. Ask your People Managers for input on communicating with them to share updates and information. For non-desk environments, it might be simple talking points for daily meetings or a weekly 1 – 2 sentence update on what’s important. Be sure to keep it simple and reinforce the message in other channels. 

9. Spark Engagement During New Hire Orientation

First impressions are opportunities that can’t be missed. Beyond a general list of benefit options, create short stories with specific examples of how employees are taking advantage of the benefits and programs. Simple examples are always more effective than a list of program offerings, and be sure to illustrate the impact on the individual and their family to support a more emotional connection.

10. Pilot, Learn, Adapt and Improve

The conversation about the benefits and programs available to employees is not a set-and-forget communications campaign. Be sure to identify ways to measure the impact and efficacy to ensure new elements are highlighted over time. Share what is working or not working with colleagues and think about new ways to make small adjustments. When employees feel that the communications are fresh and relevant, they will speak up, share, participate, and help you meet your goals. 

For more information about how to implement these ideas and more, contact Preston Lewis at