“Communication: the thing humans forgot when we invented words”
We’d love to be able to attribute that quote to ourselves, but we didn’t say it. It’s another nugget from Richard Branson. But we agree wholeheartedly.
We assume far too much and either communicate far too little or just really, really badly. Communication only works when it is understood by the intended person and brings about action, or at least thought. You can communicate all you like, through the most fabulous, shiniest of mediums or ‘platforms’ as we now call them, but unless the person you’re talking to understands what you’re saying and most importantly, wait for it…can communicate back, then you’re probably having a big long, probably quite draining conversation with yourself.
Organisations spend small fortunes on internal comms. Fact. And do they always work? Nope. Internal comms has come a long way, certainly within the past ten years and there is a lot more ‘conversation’ in the workplace, thanks to enterprise social networking tools (think Tibbr and Yammer where you can communicate everything you need to employees and let them communicate back and have multi-way conversations), the development of clever communications channels, weekly e-blasts, Twitter and real life actual meetings and briefings. When it comes to communicating employee benefits, many businesses still have some way to go.
We know the following to be true – employees want to have their say in what benefits they can choose from. So, you already have your first step marked out clearly with ‘Consultation’ written all over it, but what happens after that.
The launch of the employee benefits programme and then of course the uptake. Or maybe not… And what’s the point of rolling pound coins into an employee benefits programme if you don’t see ‘Improved Recruitment and Retention’ marching straight back at you with loud footsteps? There is no point. It’s a waste of money, but the key to making sure these pounds are well spent lies entirely in the ‘C’ word.
We like to back up everything we say with the facts (ok, the really important stuff we say…) so we embarked upon a research project for six months earlier this year to dig out the detail, unravel the mysteries and line up some hard (and some not so hard) facts about the world of employee benefits.
We were quite thorough as you would expect. We asked six top hospitality business leaders (see below for list), 439 online survey respondents and held focus groups with business and finance students to get their views on employee benefits and businesses’ responsibility to administer them.
One of the biggest headlines that came out of that research was this:
87% of employees think it is the employer’s responsibility to explain how employees can get the most out of their package
The key part of that statement is not the percentage, it’s this…
It’s so simple but we are so guilty of not taking the time to have these one-to-ones and hey guess what, everyone is different. You knew that anyway. Your employees are not a homogenous group. They’re individuals and life changes all the time (We found that 82% of employees think their employee benefits package should change as their personal circumstances alter). So one man’s gym membership is another man’s pension. One woman’s company car is another woman’s flexible working.
Whether you’re an HR bod, a creature of finance, a Chief Exec, the very phrase ‘employee benefits’ will mean entirely different things to you (and probably stir up very different emotions, or perhaps, absolutely none at all), but what you will want more than anything (ok…maybe not anything) is for your employees to understand what benefits are available to them, what this means in terms of ‘difference to their lives/working lives’, how to maximise their benefits and for them to feel happy, loyal to you as an employer, driven, motivated, valued and a generally feeling like an important cog in your wheel.
We work closely with the Dorchester Collection who we will give the title of ‘exemplar’ for their commitment to communication – huge clap. This is a group whose HR department offer one-to-one benefits reviews so that employees understand how to get the most out of their benefits as their life circumstances change. They also offer mortgage advice sessions (which we think is absolutely spot on…) and they told us that this has driven up employee retention.
Communication probably works best when you strip away layers, get down to the nitty gritty, pull up a chair and talk. And there is absolutely no software needed for that.
We can overcomplicate things at times and there’s no doubt that there is a mix of communications vehicles that are appropriate and effective in the process of employee benefit consultation and the roll out of benefits programmes but sometimes the simplest approach works.
We know that employee benefits programme work – they help to retain and recruit quality employees and improve your bottom line. Fact.
We know that there are huge challenges which employers face when embarking upon an employee benefits programme. Fact.
We know that education, consultation, simple communication, talking and listening work. Fact.
If we make one more statement and end with 'fact', we know we're sounding more and more like David Brent...Fact.
Communication is everything when it comes to employee benefits. That’s how you’ll get your return.
To view the Dorchester Collection case study, please click here.
Have a good evening!
*Industry leaders interviewed for the report comprised Robert Allan, director of HR at Apex Hotels; Jane Sunley, chief executive of HR consultancy Purple Cubed; Zuleika Fennell, chief operating officer at Corbin & King; Marianne Barlow, HR director at Jumeriah; Sean Wheeler, then-regional HR director at the Dorchester Collection and now HR director at Starwood Capital, and Esther O’Halloran, chair of HR in hospitality and founder of EOH Solutions.