The past few years have seen the increasing development of reward, compensation and benefits into recognised HR specialisms. As the profession has risen in importance and status, there has been a corresponding rise in the responsibility compensation and benefits or reward directors and managers have for benefits decisions in their organisation.
Even as recently as last year, respondents said it was still more likely for financial directors to have primary responsibility for benefits decisions. This situation has now reversed, making compensation and benefits/reward directors or managers the third most likely role to be primarily responsible for benefits decisions.
Further down the hierarchy, an increasing number of compensation and benefits/reward officers are now able to influence benefits decisions. Being involved at this stage will give them valuable experience as their career advances.
Just 29% of respondents to this year’s survey say they use any formal methods to find out whether their communication methods are effective.
In the current economic climate, benefits and reward professionals are coming under increased pressure to demonstrate the effectiveness of their benefits spend. It is therefore surprising that such a low proportion of respondents use any formal methods to identify whether their communication methods are effective.
A good communications strategy can help to increase employee understanding and take-up of their benefits, maximising an employer’s return on investment on their benefits spend.
Over the past 12 years, technological developments have had a significant impact on benefits communication. For example, in 1998, Employee Benefits’ Strategic Reward Research found that just a quarter of employers used email to communicate benefits and only 7% had an intranet site in place. Today, the situation is very different. Now, 70% of respondents place details of their benefits package on their organisation’s internet or intranet site, and 38% use email alerts to communicate benefits messages to staff.
The use of email has fluctuated in popularity in recent years, however. Its use as a means of communication peaked in 2004, when it was used by 42% of respondents. Although this year has seen a slight rise in its use once again (from 35% last year to 38%), it will be interesting to see if this trend continues. It may be that employers have looked to inexpensive communication methods (such as email) to help cut or control costs during the recession.
However, in some cases, employers continue to put their trust in more traditional methods of communication that cannot be easily ignored or forgotten about by employees, particularly around complex benefits such as pensions. In these instances, face-to-face presentations, run by the employer or by providers, can help to get messages across effectively.
As we head into the upturn, it will also be interesting to see how the use of newer technologies, such as webcasts, podcasts, texts (SMS) and DVDs, as well as social networking sites such as Twitter and Facebook, will develop as methods of communications after getting off to a relatively slow start.
Read more articles from the Employee Benefits/Alexander Forbes Benefits Research 2010