Employee engagement: how to achieve a workplace benefits culture to be proud of

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If engagement with your employee benefits schemes is low, there are steps you can take to improve this. Here’s a handy guide to transforming your workplace benefits culture.  

Workplace benefits are a vital part of your employee engagement strategy, impacting all sorts of areas including the attraction and retention of staff, as well as ensuring that wellbeing and cost saving targets are actively met.

When creating your benefits strategy, however, it’s essential to ensure that employees understand and engage with their rewards.

A positive employee benefits culture is where you’ve gone past measuring benefits uptake or portal logins. You’ll be seeing employees as advocates, measuring employee actions and you’ll know that these benefits are truly valued and used effectively.

Employee motivation will ideally shift, so they potentially become healthier, less stressed and more engaged as a direct result of your initiatives and culture.

The perfect storm isn’t the norm

We all know this ‘perfect storm’ isn’t the usual experience, and there is still a head-thudding-on-desk feeling that free and helpful things are provided for employees, yet they largely don’t take advantage of them.

So much is this the case that in our Benefits and Trends Survey 2018, employee engagement was shown to be one of the top two challenges for employers, alongside retention.

Right after those two issues, employers said they needed to improve employee participation with benefits and overall employee engagement.

Are there ways to create this idea employee engagement scenario? Definitively, yes. Are they all simple? No, but the rewards are great – for your business and for its employees.

Below are a few suggestions, taken from our Benefits Engagement Guide to help you begin that process.

Draw up a strategy

Only one in four companies do this, but without objectives, you can’t measure your success and you’ll potentially waste a great deal of time and money. There are few other business functions that could spend such significant amounts of money without a business case.

Fortunately, it’s a fairly simple process, so investigate which employees are engaged and who isn’t, where there is disinterest and why engagement levels are where they are.

Listen

Engagement is a reciprocal process - to increase involvement you need to reach out to your audience.

Find out if they know about their benefits. Ask them if the benefits are right for them and how they like to communicate.

Connect

Engagement is about genuine connection, and a proven way to achieve this is good storytelling.

Think of a story that stayed with you, and that you told others. That’s what you want to mimic, letting people know ‘what’s in it for me’.

Think, too, about how you deliver the stories, whether it’s via video, visual email or infographic newsletters.

New technology

We’re all continually exposed to new communication channels outside the workplace, so don’t stick with just offline communications, mix them up with digital channels that are more familiar and user friendly.

You can start with small, incremental steps so you don’t use the entire budget upfront.

With the right people strategy and benefits programmes, employers can create an environment where employees are more engaged with their work 

Personalised video is a powerful way to use technology to make information more relevant.

It’s also worth considering a benefits app to interact with benefits on smartphones. Then plan for the future with augmented reality and even apps for voice assistants, so people can ask questions with ease. Using tech can also help you build a better picture of engagement.

Stand out from the brand

A lot of companies use the corporate brand to launch benefits, which can risk your messages getting lost.

Benefits are for and about your people, so they need to recognise the benefit offering to help overcome any apathy now or in the future.

Identify your internal champions

Employee advocacy is huge for getting better results. If you think of successful grassroots campaigns, perhaps around diversity or mental health, it’s often colleagues who champion them.

They talk to others, open up discussions, sustain change and provide feedback. Before finding your champions, make sure you know what you want them to do and how you’ll make sure they’re knowledgeable and confident.

Budget

Investment in benefits communications is currently staggeringly low, with the average HR department spending only 4% of its benefits management budget on communications. This simply isn’t enough.

Benefits are a significant investment, yet there can be little thought or investment into communicating great benefits in the best way.

Nudge

A once-a-year message doesn’t cut the mustard. Plan for actively sustaining benefits engagement throughout the year.

Strategic moments can help – use absence data to know peak times for sick days (and spotlight health-related benefits).

If you offer childcare benefits, prompt them ahead of school holidays, or coincide communications with company awareness events, perhaps mental health or pensions.

Make it relevant

We all respond better to things if it resonates, so make communications personal.

For example, if you have a large number of late-career employees, sending them personalised recommendations and pensions information will help keep them engaged up to their retirement date.

Keep it simple

Avoid anything that makes it difficult or too complicated for employees to understand. Use language they understand, without jargon. The delivery platform also needs to be low-touch, so they can check their benefits simply.

With the right people strategy and benefits programmes, employers can create an environment where employees are more engaged with their work – and the organisation is more likely to achieve its objectives.

That starts with asking yourself honestly where your benefits culture is at right now – and taking the necessary steps to make those changes.

Interested in learning more about this topic? Read Benefits uptake: are you doing enough?

About Sarah Robson

Sarah Robson, Aon

Sarah is Aon's lead in the Online Communications Consultancy team with key skills in engagement through a multichannel, segmented approach to communications and she has worked with clients across all sectors, including the Financial, Technology, Consumer and Energy sectors. She provides strategic consulting advice from start to end on communication strategy, content, design, experience and delivery to ensure there is a powerful connection with employees.

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