Need to know:
- A communications strategy can help employees see the value of a voluntary benefits scheme, especially in a time when so many group-buying discount sites are available.
- A communications strategy must take into account different working environments and how different employee groups access information.
- Digital communications, such as apps and text messaging, can be a useful method to quickly and easily reach a dispersed employee population.
Around 16.4 million people internationally now use group buying discount site Groupon, according to August 2017 figures by DMR, with one billion Groupon deals sold between the website’s 2008 launch and February 2016.
Group buying sites, such as Groupon and Wowcher, can present stiff competition for an employer’s voluntary benefits proposition, so how can it design a communications strategy to best engage employees and increase take up?
Promote the benefits
A communications strategy can promote the discounts and offers available through a voluntary benefits platform, highlighting to employees where they can make savings on their everyday shopping. Mark Carman, director of communication services at Edenred, says: “It’s all about trying to put the discounts in context.”
Regular, targeted communications that focus on an employee’s life stage, for example, how benefits can support a the day-to-day costs of a family, can also help employees relate the benefits available through a voluntary benefits scheme to their own lifestyle, says Adam Whatling, global engagement and technology expert at Love2shop.
Alternatively, employers could segment communications based on benefits take-up from previous years, says Carman. For example, this could include communications targeted at new joiners or those who have not previously engaged with the voluntary benefits scheme.
Know the audience
The working environment also needs to be considered when planning how best to deliver a communications strategy. Julian Foster, managing director at Computershare, says: “If [employers have] got white collar [employees] versus blue collar for example, [employers] may be able to [communicate] more electronically for the former, whereas for the latter, [they] need to look at how [they] can get communications to them.”
Desk drops and email communications, for example, are likely to prove more effective for desk-based employees, whereas retail workers or factory floor employees may be better reached by promotional leaflets delivered in their payslips, or a voluntary benefits brochure sent to their home address.
Face-to-face communication can be a useful tool to engage all employees with their voluntary benefits scheme. “I think [face-to-face communication is] so powerful in voluntary benefits; [employers should not underestimate] the power of face-to-face communication,” says Whatling.
Employee ambassadors or champions can take on the role of social media influencers within the workplace and generate activity and responses on messaging platforms, such as Yammer or the staff intranet, to help promote voluntary benefits. These employee groups can also encourage colleagues to discuss how they have used the benefits.
Drop-in lunch-and-learn seminars are another way employers could use face-to-face communications for greater engagement, says Kiarna Tarr, senior consultant at Like Minds. These 20-to-30 minute-long sessions can be tailored around themes such as financial wellbeing, to help employees save money, for example, by taking advantage of the offers available to them.
Employers could also issue communication toolkits that provide line managers with information on how employees can access their voluntary benefits and if there are any new benefits or updates to be aware of to help line managers cascade benefits communications to staff.
Digital communications can prove effective for some employees, for example, mobile employees. Voluntary benefits micro-sites and apps can also garner more employee interest, because these tools are more visual and interactive, offering notifications and gamification, which can be used to engage employees with their voluntary benefits, adds Carman.
Digital communications can also include a call-to-action link that enables employees to instantly gain access to, and interact, with their voluntary benefits. This could include push notifications from an employee benefits platform, or messages sent via in-house social media channels or email.
Employers can ensure their voluntary benefits offering stands out from the crowd by creating a communications strategy that includes appropriate and personalised media channels for its specific workforce. Making use of employees’ life stages to engage staff with voluntary benefits can also prove advantageous in encouraging take-up.