Need to know:
- Creating memories for employees when introducing or revamping health benefits can encourage take-up and increase awareness.
- Encouraging a sense of competition can boost engagement with certain health and wellbeing benefits.
- Thinking outside the box to transform traditional communication can make a benefit stand out.
Employers are increasingly recognising the importance of communicating health and wellbeing benefits to staff: in the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development’s (CIPD’s) Absence Management Survey 2015, published in October in partnership with Simplyhealth, 48% of employers had improved communications to staff about the wellbeing benefits available to them in the past 12 months. Yet, when communication is delivered in abundance, messages can get lost or overlooked. In these cases, turning to more inventive and unusual forms of communication could help boost engagement and awareness levels.
This could mean stepping away from more traditional communication methods, says Jamie Mackenzie, marketing director at Sodexo: “Employers are no longer focusing on standard emails or brochures; [they are] moving onto experiential communications that create memories for employees.”
To set themselves apart, organisations could create a memorable experience for employees. These could, for example, provide staff with a taster of the benefits available to them. “I know one business that installed beds in its offices for a week to encourage staff to take naps and inform them that flexible working was available to them,” says Mackenzie.
He adds: “For employers offering gym memberships, installing gym equipment for a couple of weeks could be really memorable.”
When E.on held a roadshow across several of its offices in 2012 with the aim of reducing stigma around mental health issues and highlighting new occupational health benefits available to staff, the communications campaign centred around a ‘Headshed’. This shed was placed in the grounds of the offices visited and filled with information about the mental health issues and the benefits in place to support employees. Ant Donaldson, global product expert, benefits at E.on, says: “The most important thing is to flag employees to more information and explain exactly what the benefit is.”
These experiences could also involve activities. For example, Westfield Health recently held a healthy eating week for its employees, which involved bringing a smoothie bike into the office for a day. The bike featured a built-in blender, with riders adding their favourite fruits before pedalling long enough to create a smoothie.
“Making a strategy fun, interesting and quirky means it will resonate more with staff and they will be more likely to engage and use the benefits, which, in turn, will help the bottom line of the business,” says Fiona Lowe, head of HR at Westfield Health.
Employers could also highlight health and wellbeing schemes by offering ways for employees to compete with and encourage one another through various challenges. “Challenges to get employees competing can be great, and this sort of thing is becoming much more prominent in wellbeing,” Rachel Barber, key account manager at Incorpore.
However, competitions may not be appropriate for every benefit or employee. When implementing a new or revamped health and wellbeing scheme, it is imperative that employers tailor their communication to best suit the organisation’s culture and the demographic of the workforce. Dr Jill Miller, research adviser at the CIPD, says: “Different methods of communication may be most appropriate for different wellbeing offerings.”
Twist on the traditional
To boost engagement with health and wellbeing benefits, employers do not necessarily have to dramatically break the communication mould. Where relevant, organisations could refresh corporate communication methods that their employees are already familiar with.
Employers could build on the knowledge of their target demographic to develop a creative approach that encompasses more traditional means of communication, such as leaflets and posters. Barber says: “Posters… need to be eye-catching and engaging to get staff to take notice. Employers need to really consider who they’re trying to target.”
Internal branding is also an integral part of many successful communication campaigns and can help to strengthen the association between the benefit and the employer. For instance, if an organisation is offering a healthy-eating regime, it could brand the healthy food and drink on offer.
“Employers need to include how and why a healthcare scheme is being offered, but they also need to brand it with a fun element and take a spin on dull corporate paperwork, perhaps with a themed quirky leaflet with simple information outlining what the scheme entails,” says Mackenzie.
With 97% of HR decision makers identifying a link between employee wellbeing and organisational performance, according to Edenred’s 2015 Wellbeing barometer, published in June 2015, engaging staff with health and wellbeing benefits is key. Using quirky communication methods can help to create memories, increase understanding and take-up of these benefits among the workforce.