There was once a time when employee communications was simple –a letter-sized flier tacked to break room bulletin boards, ClipArt the boundary of graphic sophistication and content consisting of little more than dry descriptive text.
Over the years, so much has changed.
Black and white handouts have given way to full color e-blasts and large professionally-designed print material. Intranets now deliver interactive messages in real-time.
Unfortunately, content and message development is still stuck about a decade behind.
When it comes to big initiatives, employers need to stop communicating to employees – they need to begin marketing to employees.
Whether it’s a drastic change in benefits, incentive plan restructuring or other moves that will significantly affect the workforce, employers need to boldly get the positive aspects of the initiative out in the forefront immediately.
Let’s say you are introducing a high deductible plan – you need to promote the upfront premium savings and the value of a health savings account. It’s simply not enough to tell your employers there is a new option and that they should take the time to learn about it.
First of all, few employees think they have the time to invest in learning about a benefit and, subsequently, won’t bother. But, more importantly, the most attractive aspects of the new plan are going to get lost with all other bullet points.
You must define the perception. Otherwise, you won’t be thrilled if the perception is left to evolve on its own.
Secondly, it is vitally important to identify the positive features that would most likely grab the attention of your workforce, and lead the conversation with them.
Take at this real-life scenario as an example:
Two years ago, one of our clients at Univers was introducing a high deductible plan with a health reimbursement account to its employees. Previously, these employees only had the choice of more traditional plans.
The first thing the Univers team did was change the name of the option to the Smart Plan, rather than go forward with trying to promote the “high deductible health plan” – which is pretty much like trying to sell broccoli-flavored ice cream, not effective in the least! Along with colorful new branding, our team then identified the aspect of the new plan that would make the best first impression: the company contribution to the HRA (in other words, free money).
Once we had the workforce’s positive attention, we explained how the plan worked – providing profiles of how it could reduce total health care costs if even you have a family.
In the end, participation exceeded our expectations for the first-year roll-out.
If the Univers team had simply tried to describe the plan and compare it to the current PPO options, two things would have occurred:
- Very few people would have taken the time to familiarize themselves with the aspects that could reduce their health care spend
- Everyone would have been scared off by the words “high deductible.”
So what is the lesson to be learned?
In this day and age, you must get out front and aggressively market to employees. There is no way around it. The most attractive features won’t just jump out and hype themselves, so proactively defining the message is essential to making sure employees not only absorb what is being stated but also thoroughly understand it.
Abide by these tips, and you will be well on your way to an effective and successful communications campaign.
by RALPH MORANO
Ralph Morano is the Vice President of Communications at Univers Workplace Solutions.