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Partner with marketing to create effective benefits messages

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in Employee Benefits Program,Human Resources,Office Communication,Workplace Communication

More than half of all organizations rely on employee newsletters, special mailings and other printed pieces to increase enrollment in benefits programs, says a new study from the benefits consulting firm Watson Wyatt.

Those pieces might not be as effective as you think. Straightforward print communications can inform your employees about benefits, but they’re unlikely to change their behavior.

As you change the way you manage benefits, what you really need to do is convince employees to make some changes themselves—in how they manage their own benefits.

Examples: You want employees to take more responsibility for their health care, pay more of their insurance costs, invest more money in their 401(k) plans or recruit new talent to join the organization.

Those are jobs for a marketing pro.

Advice:
Team up with your organization’s marketing department to design a strategy that will propel your employees to action. If your company doesn’t have a marketing pro, bring in a consultant—or start thinking like a marketer yourself.

Kathryn Yates, Watson Wyatt’s global practice director of communication, says a professionally crafted communication effort will result in better employee retention.

“A health care benefit is not why [employees] join a company. They assume it’s there,” says Yates. “But that’s why they stay at the company. The more you can reinforce the value of the benefit, then the higher retention rate you have.”

Here are six ways to transform ordinary communication about your organization’s benefits into effective communication:

1.  Change your message. Sending accurate information isn’t enough. Aim to help employees understand their benefits, appreciate them and act on them.

2.  Send a unified message. Even if separate managers are responsible for designing health care, compensation and retirement benefits, combine your communications so employees will see their total rewards every time they read about any reward.

3.  Target your message. Blue-collar workers respond to different words, graphics and emotions than highly trained specialists or executives. One size doesn’t fit all when it comes to communication.

4.  Create an internal brand.
Your organization most likely has invested in creating an external brand that customers or clients can identify with emotionally and practically. Do the same for employees. Manage what they’re hearing about the advantages of working at your organization.

5.  Align the internal message with the external brand.
What are you promising your customers? Are your employees’ experiences as positive as your customers’?

6.  Ask employees what they want. That’s a hallmark of marketing research. Gauge employee attitudes about the benefits you offer, and ask what they would rather have. Use the results to tailor your benefits and your communication about those benefits.

Organizations with effective communication programs have higher retention rates than poor communicators, notes Yates. “If your company is communicating with you, you feel connected,” she says. “Break through the clutter and have your people understand their benefits.”

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