Many internal/employee communications are delivered in siloed streams and on any given day, an employee may receive one communication from Finance about the new expense reimbursement system. Another from Payroll about W-2s being available online. Another one from the Benefits Department on a change to the 401(k) plan. Another one from Facilities about the cafeteria menu. Another from Learning & Development about a new leadership training for new people managers. You get the idea.
All these various departments, with possibly different branding across multiple communications and channels, are competing for attention and sending out messages and wanting to make it clear “who” sent it.
But consider the employee experience as they field multiple requests from colleagues, clients, vendors, recruiters etc. It is just stuff from the Company (or worse yet, just stuff from HR). They can’t differentiate who is sending what or why. They just want to know WIFI (what’s in it for me.)
Consider building your HR Brand and working together across functions to think about how HR should “look, sound and feel.”
Time is precious, information overload is rampant and email fatigue is flourishing. Are you brave enough to jump into the sandbox together and look at your communications in a new way? Consider starting a communications audit. Or perhaps you need help activating your talent brand internally in a consistent way?
An employer brand is the way your organization’s prospective applicants, candidates and employees perceive you as an employer. In simpler words, it’s the process of building an image of being “a great place to work at” in the minds of prospective candidates and employees. It is a long-term strategy that establishes an organization’s identity as an employer, and reveals how one organization is different from another. But what about “employee branding?” Having employees become your brand ambassadors is a fast way of building a grass roots recruiting effort and harnessing the power of word-of-mouth.
Loosen Up Control
Take a tip from Zappos, the online retailer legendary for turning employees into brand advocates. Loosen up a little control and let team members use Social Media to talk about the company and its culture to prospective candidates.
Create a 30-minute “employer brand certification program”
Create a 30-minute “employer brand certification program” so employees learn more about appropriate social recruiting behavior. Arm them with the information they need to create a singular brand experience. Share updates about events, news, new projects and developments, and make sure they’re aware of your hard-to-fill job opportunities and what makes them so special.
In return for their efforts, considers suggestions given by your employees and takes time to recognize them for the positive efforts they are putting forth on behalf of your employer brand.
The average person has 1 to 12 intimate contacts, 150 social contacts and 500 – 1,500 weak ties so an employee population of 100 people could yield more than 10,000 new candidates in your pipeline.
With the influx of millennials and an emphasis on work-life balance, remote workers are becoming an increasingly vital segment of the workforce. This year, Global Workplace Analytics cites 63 million Americans (or about a third of the workforce) as working remotely. Analytics, workforce demographics and communications are crucial elements of Brandemix business, so we’re tickled to delve into strategies for reaching and engaging all the segments of a staff.
First, make sure everyone knows they are included
According to an Inc. article, one difficult aspect of managing remote workers is how to loop them in. Be sure to include everyone in meetings (using videos, your Intranet or a conduit like Go To Meeting), and publicly acknowledge the contributions of each remote worker. Take steps to keep them informed of what is going on back at the office, especially when it comes to epic staff events like a JCAHO audit, benefits open enrollment, or your summer outing.
Next, launch an enlightened Internal Communications Plan
A solid internal communications plan captures attention and bolsters employee engagement. At Brandemix, we have a four-phase process to identify and promote your objectives and reach your employees—wherever they reside. Today’s plans are increasingly social and interactive, enabling real time conversations between on and off-site staff members. The savviest companies communicate with a multi-channel approach to advertising and marketing; equally important when broadcasting messages inside the company.
Use Your Intranet, Blog and Social Media
From sharp videos to updates on your blog or Facebook pages, internal information can be made into something that is compelling and memorable. Use posts to remind people of forthcoming deadlines, new bids/projects in the house, or an ongoing employee referral program. Celebrate social events like weddings, new hires and promotions, or the team who ran that half-marathon. Integrate activity streams (also called news feeds), puzzles and quizzes if you really want to get people enthused, say the experts at My Hub.
Create a Buddy System
Remember as a child when you were paired with a swim/trip buddy at school and camp? Accountability Partners is a similar strategy that pairs different workers in different places to ensure they stay on track. From checking in on project status, to asking probing questions, buddying up works to everyone’s advantage. We learned of this concept from Freelancers Union, possibly the largest collective of remote workers around.
The best way to make sure your messages are getting through is to create remote ambassadors who can let you know if you’re getting through and come up with ideas on how to improve your cascade. Thinking about creative solutions is a great way to unite people in different locales.
MetLife’s 2015 US Employee Benefit Trends Study found that only 45% of employees “strongly agree” agree their companies’ benefit communications helped them to understand how they would pay for specific services or were effective in educating them on their options. As a result, organizations are innovating in benefit communications just as they are with intranets and other employee documents.
Do benefit communications really need to evolve? Well, just two weeks ago, Employer Benefits Adviser ran a story with the headline Employers out of touch with employee perception of benefits. Satisfaction with benefits is a major factor in job satisfaction, which affects everything from retention to referrals to productivity. Inferior benefits communications are not only boring, they’re confusing, sometimes causing workers to miss out on benefits or overpay for others. So it’s in every company’s best interests to create clear, compelling benefits communications.
Just as employee communications and intranets have become more visual, benefit communications are becoming less text-heavy. For example, insurance broker Hub International has begun adding infographics to its benefit communications, making it much easier for employees to understand their many options. Graphs, tables, diagrams, and comparison charts are also very helpful, especially to the younger generation accustomed to visual information. I’m also a fan of big, clear icons, and categorizing sections by color or other thematic imagery.
Yes, even benefit communications are going mobile. Insurer Barney & Barney offers apps that cover everything from retirement plans to paid time off to health and wellness. The feature I most admire is “Tap to call,” letting employees instantly contact the right department or insurance company to answer their question in any given section of the site. That’s something a giant paper document can’t do. And mobile devices’ smaller screens mean that employers must use less text and more imagery, just as I recommended above.
Why only communicate benefits information during open enrollment? A recent LIMRA study discovered that half of employers now provide information about benefits throughout the year. Ted Katz, Executive Vice Presidents of Group, Voluntary & Worksite Benefits at MetLife says, “Communicating during open enrollment season may not be enough. Incorporating personalized benefit messages reflecting employee life stages and events throughout the year and offering educational tools…can help make sure workers receive the benefits information they need.”
With mobile apps and comprehensive intranets, it’s easy to provide workers with this information at all times. And once the enrollment period ends and the new benefits kick in, why not send an email to employees reminding them of their new products and services? And how about another email, say, 30 days later?
Despite my love of all things tech, I understand that personal interactions are still the most valuable. Even an issue as complex as benefits communications can gain from face time. Prudential’s most recent “Study of Employee Benefits, Today & Beyond,” found that employers believe the most successful communications methods are group meetings and seminars (74%) and one-on-one meetings (72%).
Are you just putting materials in the mail — or in email — and letting employees fend for themselves? The best organizations show they care about their staff by actively engaging them during open enrollment and addressing their concerns in person.
Speaking of which, one size does not always fit all when it comes to employee communication. You may have four different generations working at your organization, and seniority ranging from a high-school intern to the CEO. Not all communications — or benefits, for that matter — speak to every segment of your workforce. Innovative companies have discovered this and now deliver more customized communications.
For example, Southern Wine and Spirits of American created three different three mailers, addressing specific 401(k) benefits based on a worker’s seniority. The mailers included an enrollment form to detach and send in, so employees could immediately begin participating in the program — a clever way to combine information with a simple call to action. For its ingenuity, Southern Wine and Spirits won IABC’s 2014 Gold Quill award for HR/Benefits Communication.
It’s clear that benefit communications are just as important to employee engagement and employer branding as other internal communications. They continue to evolve as technology and workers’ needs change. At Brandemix, we can help improve your employees’ benefit experience with a creative communications campaign designed to engage, educate, and inform. We offer an integrated approach comprised of the best web-based and traditional methods customized to speak to your unique workforce.
If you’d like to improve your benefit communications, contact me for more information.
Jody Ordioni is President of Brandemix.
Brandemix has been creating company intranets since 2008. I thought it would be interested to see how best practices and innovations from that year compare with the latest design trends of 2015. Looking back at how far intranets have come can give insights on to where they’re going next.
I’ve dug through the Brandemix archives and conducted a web search limited to 2008 to determine what was trending then, and contrasted the results with this year’s innovations.
Intranets used to be accessible only to employees sitting at their desks. That meant a large screen, often a Windows operating system, and standard dimensions and colors. Thus, the intranet had to look good on only what type of machine. After all, why would an employee check work information at home, in their free time? And they certainly wouldn’t use a mobile device to browse a company’s intranet, since the first iPhone had been released only a few months before.
Of course, the iPhone changed all that. Now employees want to be able to check their benefits, schedules, sick pay, and other information anytime. And they do it on a number of different devices with at least three different operating systems. As the Nielsen Norman Group notes about this year’s Intranet Design Award-winners, “bevels, shadows, and elaborate framing effects” have mostly given way to simple flat circles and rectangles, the easier to be tapped by a thumb. Responsive design is a must, since the intranet must look good on devices of every size.
Then: Photo of the day
Now: Image carousel
In 2008, intranets were transitioning from utilitarian (and boring) text-only formats and starting to embrace multimedia, starting with photos. Many organizations posted a “Photo of the Day” that greeted employees when they accessed the intranet. Some of these pictures were from the company’s files or employee events, others were simply stock images, which weren’t very engaging.
In 2015, many organizations are using image carousels to provide multiple photos to employees each time they log in. Here, the content drives the images — if it’s open enrollment for health benefits, the image might reflect health and wellness. It the winter holidays are nearing, the image may show employees exchanging gifts or spending time with their families. This makes the intranet homepage much more relevant and engaging for workers, and makes the entire site easier to navigate.
Then: One-way video
Now: Interactive video
Seven years ago, video was just making its way onto intranets. Back then, you could expect two kinds of content: Training videos and speeches from executives. Useful, but limiting. There was no chance for a employees to respond or to post their own videos. The intranet was considered a one-way portal of information, with no thought of employees contributing to the conversation.
Today, the idea of social media has changed that philosophy. Rather than posting “official” videos of corporate events, some companies allow employees to post their own, since virtually every worker has a camera in their pocket at every event. Health company Klick uses video in a unique way: After an employee submits a question, an expert on the topic records an answer with an iPhone and uploads the video to intranet. This makes knowledge-sharing much more fun and interactive than a typical training video. Organizations have finally caught on and stopped making videos play automatically — a pet peeve of mine.
Then: Intranet as document dump
Now: Intranet as vault of knowledge
In the early days of intranets, companies would basically dump all their documents into their internal server. Press releases, legal documents, health insurance information, employee handbooks, old blog posts. Often it wasn’t indexed or categorized or searchable. Without a direct link, employees had to sift through a lot of blurry scans and weirdly formatted pages to find useful information.
Today, companies see an intranet as a respository of knowledge that can inform and engage employees. They take the time to scan and index documents, and tag them with descriptive keywords, so that employees can easily access them. Some organizations have taken the next step and implemented federated search, allowing one search to run through multiple databases. Others, like IBM, have made employees part of their knowledge base by connecting experts in different fields. Rather than searching a “normal” database, workers search for a colleague who can provide the answers they need.
Then: Brandemix could help you
Now: Brandemix can help you
Brandemix has been creating and enhancing company intranets since 2007. We know the latest trends and can customize your intranet’s capabilities to your exact needs. We also believe that extending your brand through internal communications is the best way to build employee engagement and commitment. Through our four-phase process, we build intranets that promote your business objectives, tell employees the forces driving it, and keep them up to date.
Ready for an intranet that will still be effective and engaging in 2023? Contact Brandemix.
Jody Ordioni is President of Brandemix.