Employees today are inundated with information from almost every direction. In addition to grappling with all of the snail mail, email, texts, ads, and phone calls competing for their attention outside of the office, people spend their workdays trafficking an inordinate amount of messages — everything from meeting reminders and project requests to a number of other items lengthening their to-do lists. And they all seem to say “read me now.”

This reality of message overload poses a challenge for employers who need to get essential information through to their workforce.  By following some best practices and experimenting with modern communication trends, you can get above the noise and effectively reach your employees. Here are five tips to make your employee communications shine:

1. Use a theme to present your communications. A relevant message is going to connect with employees, and what better way to draw their interest than to tie important information with a compelling concept — especially if your communications are well-timed and actionable. Maybe you use a baseball theme to boost mid-year participation in your wellness program, or leverage holiday cheer to promote an end-of-the-year employee charitable giving opportunity. One of our clients significantly increased employee engagement with “Open Enrollment Goes Hollywood,” a movie theme they put to work in making their open enrollment season fun, entertaining, and educational.

2. Put employees at the center of communications. Your objective is to pique employees’ interest and motivate them to take action, so craft your message both around them, and about them. On top of answering their question, “what’s in it for me?”, make the message itself personal and relatable. Thanks to big data, marketers have taken personalization to the next level, and HR professionals can easily ride the trend simply by knowing their employees and what drives their culture. Consider the value of using humor: it’s a fun way to engage employees while fostering a sense of belonging and community. One of our clients incorporated an inside joke into one of their retirement plan videos — they made reference to a unique feature of one of their executives (something only an employee would know about and find humorous) — and it was met with smiles, while getting the message across.

Also see: Think like a marketer to engage employees, drive loyalty

3. Simplify your message. Often with communications, the sender (and HR is no exception) tries to fit too many messages into one communication, only to end up having no message communicated. When you pack too much in, employees don’t know where to focus and they don’t come away with a clear understanding of what you want them to do. To avoid confusion, simplify. Pick the most important messages, eliminate jargon, and humanize it. Take health care reform, for example — an inherently complicated topic you need employees to grasp. You’re asking employees to digest a lot of information that impacts their wellness in addition to their perception of their health care benefits. So communicate as efficiently as possible, in terms they can understand and take action on. Follow communications best practices: Write engaging headlines, use interesting graphics, keep your content short, and provide a clear call to action when you need them to respond.

4. Use gamification and incentives. Sometimes employees need a little motivation to act on your communications. Take a cue from pop culture and make a game of it, inciting their interest along with their appetite for fun competition. Offer cool product giveaways, gift cards, or entertainment tickets for participating in activities, and create a buzz around your promotion. One GuideSpark customer got great results from enhancing an HR campaign with a raffle: after watching a video, employees received a promo code they used to register to win an Apple iPad. Employees tuned in and paid attention, and at least one lucky person walked away with a new mobile device.

5. Take a multichannel approach to marketing your communications. When it comes to communications strategies, one size doesn’t fit all. Different people consume information differently, so using various communication methods and media helps you cover your bases and improve your reach and engagement. One of the keys is to leverage the latest communications trends and vehicles such as social, mobile, and video. One client in the airline industry was successful in this approach, delivering an integrated marketing campaign using e-mail, direct mail, blog posts, and videos to reach employees before, during and after enrollment.

And here’s a bonus tip: Run focus groups and measure what works. Turn to your employees for surefire insights into what they’re interested in — and how they want to hear about it. Involving them in the planning process through surveys or focus groups lets them know that their opinion matters to the company, plus it encourages them to keep an eye out for any upcoming company communications. Then, track your efforts and fine-tune your tactics to maximize your effectiveness over time.

Also see: Conducting focus groups helps fine-tune benefits communication

Employees are one of your most important assets. No matter what you’re communicating with them, you want your message to be received, understood, and valued. By following these “Top 5 Ways”, you’ll build deeper connections with your employees, translating into higher levels of job satisfaction, retention, and productivity. And you’ll be sure to reach the right person with the right message at the right time. Spend the time to engage and communicate with employees, in the same way you do with your customers. You’ll see results.

Keith Kitani is CEO of Guidespark, an employee communication and engagement company.

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