This article is brought to you by Hymans Robertson
Employers must sharpen up to get the message across on perks, says Helen McArthur, senior communications consultant at Hymans Robertson
BOGOF is a high-impact acronym often used by retailers to grab the attention of consumers and engage them with their products. So what can we learn from this ‘buy one, get one free’ approach? The past 15 years have seen a significant shift in the ways in which employers deliver employee benefits. Gone are the days of defined benefit (DB) pensions, mortgage subsidies and company cars. These traditional perks are being overshadowed by defined contribution (DC) pensions, car cash allowances and flexible benefits.
However, the changing landscape of employee benefit provision has also seen an increase in the risk that employees bear. For example, staff enrolled in DC pensions will need to know what investment options are available to best mitigate the risks associated with the recent turmoil in the financial markets. They may also be wondering how much they should contribute to their pension so they are on target for their retirement.
Employees are also likely to have a range of questions about various benefits. An effective benefits communication strategy is integral to engage employees with their benefits and give advice on how any risk should be managed, as well as promoting the perks. Communication is vital to combat benefits myths, eradicate confusion and, more importantly, apathy, which is a particular problem when it comes to encouraging staff to save for their retirement. Some employees are simply not interested in something that will (or might) happen tomorrow. To change such attitudes, employers need to make sure benefits communication resonates with workers.
The marketing and communication landscape may be changing dramatically, but the way in which organisations communicate with employees has hardly moved at all. The communication media may have developed, but the approach has not.
If organisations are serious about improving employee engagement, their approach to communication probably needs to be challenged. In particular, compensation and benefits teams should start thinking of themselves as marketing and sales professionals as well as technical experts. In short, employees have to be treated as consumers. Compensation and benefits professionals should ask how they could sell more DC pensions to the workforce, or make sure employees are buying enough life assurance cover.
A successful communications strategy will be targeted to reach employees at different stages of their life. To achieve this, organisations need to find out which benefits employees value. Direct messaging is also effective. The world of benefits communication is often full of small print and compliance. Short, punchy, direct messaging will grab employees’ attention. ‘Want a 6% pay rise? Don’t miss out on company pension contributions.’
Something else to consider is the timing of the messages. For example, ‘click here to divert a quarter of your next month’s pay rise to pension’. To deliver these techniques effectively, continuous data collection is required, as well as an analysis of how the benefits package is perceived by employees.
Organisations need to be brave enough to use BOGOF techniques with employees if they want to achieve full value from benefits and significantly improve levels of employee engagement.†
The views and opinions in this article are those of our sponsor, Hymans Robertson and do not necessarily reflect those of www.employeebenefits.co.uk