Thought leaders 2010: The year ahead: Targeted media will boost engagement

Key Points

  • The current economic climate presents a perfect opportunity for organisations to re-evaluate their benefits strategies and ensure their employees know what they are getting as part of the employment deal
  • Segmenting the workforce for communication will achieve better results than adopting a one-sizefits- all approach
  • The work environment will dictate which communication media are available to use

It is a vital time for effective benefits communication, says Anne Teggart, international compensation & benefits manager at Sony Pictures Entertainment

Last year presented many challenges for HR and 2010 is shaping up to be similar. As many organisations emerged from 2009 battered and bruised from reorganisations and redundancies, the challenge now is how to re-engage and re-focus employees to ensure businesses are strong enough to compete coming out of the downturn.

Much has been said of employees biding their time in their current role, thankful that they still have a job and waiting to see what the new year brings in terms of (hopefully) increased buoyancy in the job market. So the key for reward and benefits professionals is how to keep their key talent while contending with pressure to contain costs.

The current economic climate is a perfect time to re-evaluate benefits strategies and ensure employees know what they are getting in their employment deal. Communications have never been more important.

The first step is to consider the make-up of the current workforce – be they hourly or annually paid, office- or field-based, younger or older, white- or blue-collar – and to decide what will work best for each group. Such segmentation will achieve better results than a one-size-fits-all approach.

Considering an employee’s work environment will help to decide which communication medium to choose. A number of options are available, including the company intranet, email, paper communication such as a benefits booklet and/or employee handbook, as well as a dedicated benefits portal, if a flexible benefits package exists.

Benefits introduced during induction

At Sony Pictures, we introduce the benefits offering during induction, and use the intranet, the office lifts and a benefits booklet on an ongoing basis. The benefits booklet was launched in May 2009 and was more of a benefits ‘map’ of Rome, linked to the launch of our then-upcoming movie, Angels and Demons. A competition was run, with prizes such as an extra two days’ holiday, a free health screening or a Sony Blu-ray player and discs to choose from. Emails were sent and posters put in the lifts before the maps were desk-dropped to generate interest and get people talking about what was coming.

Feedback from employees was extremely positive, with take-up in a number of benefits, such as pension and the bikes-for-work scheme, increasing by 20% and 8%, respectively. So it does pay to think of innovative ways of communicating with employees and linking to something that is relevant to your business.

Last year saw the demise of several household brands, and 2010 could see more mergers and acquisitions as companies seek to take advantage of their rivals’ misfortunes.

For staff who are part of a newly-merged company, there may be an element of survivor syndrome to contend with. It is more important than ever to re-engage them with the business.

Total reward statements work best by highlighting not only the benefits on offer, but the value attached to each one. With budgets being spent but not always appreciated, they can be an invaluable tool in helping staff place greater value on what their employer provides.

The next 12 months will give reward and benefits professionals the best opportunity they have had for years to really step up and show how the strategy they have come up with truly delivers what their business strategy seeks.

Whether new media for communication, such as Facebook and Twitter, become more mainstream remains to be seen. That could be a generational matter, with more conservative or mature companies struggling to embed such methods. Only time will tell.

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