How to create a good communications plan
How to create a good communications plan for your benefits
The working environment, by nature, is ever-changing. As a result, business’ ability to effectively deliver communications about their benefits schemes can be challenged. How do you engage with every employee? Today, with multi-generational work forces the new norm and the demand for flexible working steadily rising, your internal benefits communications need to be smart, adaptable and engaging at every level.
Our experience in the industry has taught us that there really is no ‘one size fits all’ solution when it comes to communicating your benefits scheme to employees. With this is mind, the first thing we recommend you do before anything else is create a good communications plan.
In this blog post, I’ll be sharing our step-by-step process which I hope will help you craft a strong communications plan that will effectively meet your company’s needs and crucially, deliver results.
- Understand your communication objectives and desired outcomes
At the very beginning of the planning phase for your benefits communications, you need to map out your exact goals.So, what do you want to achieve?
Undoubtedly, your long-term aim will be to have every employee engaged with your benefits and using them regularly, but you may have other short-term objectives that will need to be fed into your communications plan.
Engage for Success highlight the communication journey which starts at Awareness, and moves to Understanding, Involvement, Support and finally, Commitment. At any point, one of these destinations along the journey will be a goal for your communications. So, when you think about the individual messages you want to deliver to your employees, you need to decide what the desired destination is for each one.
To put this into context, you may have a new benefits feature that you want your employees to know about, which means that the goal for your communication is ‘Awareness’. Alternatively, you might want to get your employees to enter a competition, so your goal here is ‘Involvement’.
By having a clear notion of the desired outcomes of your communications, you can start adding this information to your plan so you know exactly what to communicate, when to communicate, and how.
Make sure your objectives are also measurable, because then you can easily analyse and determine how successful your communications have been, which will then help shape your plan further.
2. Identify your audience
A key factor to consider that will inherently influence your benefits communications plan, is your audience. We wouldn’t send a letter without knowing the recipient, so the same principle applies here. At every stage in the process, you need to be aware of exactly who will be receiving different messages about your benefits programme.
Take into account the formation of your workforce: the different departments, roles, locations, responsibilities and levels. Then, think about your employee preferences too. You don’t need to profile every employee and design a personal communications plan for each person, but it’s still crucial that you always consider your audience when you’re in the planning phase. By doing this, you’re ensuring that your communications are consistently relevant, engaging and accessible. You’re then increasing the chance of hitting your communications objectives.
For example, this is why, when we first meet our clients, we ask them about their business. We want to know the demographic of their employees, the structure of the business, the different job roles, locations of operation and more. All of this information is crucial because it gives us a clear picture of who we’re sending communications to.This then shapes our decisions on both communications content and channels.
3. Think about content
Of course, when creating your communications plan, content is key. The messages you want to deliver about your benefits scheme will drive the entire process.
You’ll most likely be offering the same benefits package to all of your employees, so your content should be the same across the business. But when creating your plan, you need to consider whether the content will make sense to your employees, is relevant, and is engaging.There will also be times when you want to tailor your content to specific groups within the business.
For example, new starters will need to have different benefits communications at first because they will have little to no knowledge of your benefits offering. With this in mind, the content of the communications they’ll receive will be largely introductory. With existing employees, they will hopefully already have a good level of knowledge about their benefits, so your goal is to keep them engaged with your scheme. Content will therefore be geared towards relevant discounts and offers, competitions,new content – essentially any information that will encourage employees to login and use their benefits.
It’s also a good idea to tailor your content to the time of year. Some aspects of your benefits scheme might not be relevant all year round, and some elements might be of particular interest atone specific time. As a result, having a structured plan for your communications content is a really helpful tool.
The next thing to consider, is how you want to deliver your key messages.
4. Decide your optimal channels
When you know your content, your audience and your goals, it’s time to work out the best channels to deliver your messages.
Deciding the optimal channels for your benefits communications depends on two things: your employees’ needs, and their personal preferences.
Your business might have both an online and offline community, which means it needs to be considered whether different employees will have access to certain types of communications. Does everyone have regular access to their emails? At the same time, some employees might prefer physical communications, because that is the best way for them to get information about their benefits. But with flexible working set to be adopted by 70% of businesses and individuals by 2020, how many employees will be available to receive physical communications?
Why not get your employees’ feedback on the communications channels that work for them? After all, communication is a two-way thing, so having the insight of your employees will invaluably help you when you’re planning your approach.
Overall, think about the strengths and limitations of the different channels available to you and then align these with the communications ideas you have in your plan. Using a blend of channels means your communications will have greater reach and further reinforce the message you’re trying to deliver. All of this maximises the impact which means you’re more likely to get the outcome you desire.
5. Measure the success
Not sure whether your benefits communications approach is working? The best way to find out is to measure it. By looking at the data attached to your benefits package, you can accurately see whether your communications are doing the job.
For example, check the number of logins to your benefits portal, the amount spent, the number of clicks on your email communications, all of this will give you a tangible sense of the level of engagement across the business.
You can also break down your reporting by segmenting your data into different groups. For instance, you can assess what proportion of new employees are accessing their benefits in the first few months. If uptake is low, then it means you need to revisit the aforementioned points and modify your communications approach accordingly.
Employee feedback is also a highly useful tool. By asking them their thoughts on your benefits communications, you can get an insight into whether your approach is effective.
At peoplevalue, our clients get a detailed MI (Management Information) report for their benefits and discounts platform so they can assess the engagement levels and, together, we can adjust their tailored communications plan accordingly.
All of these results can be cross-referenced with your communications objectives, which you would have determined when you created your plan.
My final thoughts:
It’s incredibly important that businesses have a clear, strategic communications plan to ensure optimal engagement with the benefits schemes. The areas we’ve highlighted should always be considered and influence the design of your communications plan. It’s also essential that a communications plan is flexible so feedback and reports can influence the future approach.
Written by Natalie Wanless, Head of Account Management, peoplevalue
 Lancaster University’s Work Foundation, 2016