The following is an extract from the Journal of Internal Communication. See if you qualify for a free industry subscription at www.internal-communication.com/joic.
We set out to address three main challenges. First, like many large organisations we suffered from a relatively low level of engagement around the programme and particularly amongst employees at manufacturing sites. We relied heavily on electronic channels and this wasn’t really cutting through, we needed to figure out a different approach and develop a sustained programme of communication to build awareness, understanding and, most importantly, drive action.
The second challenge was outside of the manufacturing sites, engage ment was actually okay. However, the question we kept getting back from discussions with those employees was, “that’s all good, but what should I pick?” They wanted more help and guidance in what to select based on their lifestyle needs.
I think this reflects a wider change in consumer attitudes; whenever you go online to buy any thing you get feed back, reviews and recommendations such as “If you bought this, you might be interested in this”. People are used to that way of purchasing online and this expectation was beginning to affect our benefits program. It’s no different than any other consumer experience, so how do we start answering that question up front?
The third issue was messages were getting lost in the ‘background noise’ of other communication. How did we make sure employees knew what they needed to know, what the program was all about and what was right for them personally? We spent a lot of time and effort asking, “how do we create high impact statements that grab people’s attention?” For some reason, we had ignored the all important messaging piece up until that point.
During initial planning the big insight was that, especially at the manufacturing sites, low levels of awareness and a lack of knowledge was the problem. We had focused previously on email and online communication, but the message wasn’t getting through to the manufacturing side, because they have little or no time to use a computer during their working day.
So, working with Gatehouse, we took a “back to basics” approach, using impactful high visibility communications. The first task was to communicate specifics particularly directed at the sites. They wanted something we could put in their hand and say “this is all the information you need.” The best way of doing that was to go back to basics and produce a booklet – it’s what works best for non-wired employees. People engage with the booklet, scribble on it, make choices and then use the online portal to select their benefits. We also used visually interesting posters that had less of a ‘corporate’ feel.
Although we maintained email communication, which worked in a lot of cases, we also focused on less obvious ways of communicating – for example, using vinyl static decals in the coffee area to create more interest.
We maintained email communication because what we were doing wasn’t failing – it just wasn’t working for everyone. We wanted the big drive to be in educating employees, guiding them through the selection process – instead of just giving them a list of stuff they could have, actually going into the detail. We simplified the messages. Across the booklet, the decals, email and online channels, we kept it simple. It was a productised, expert approach. We wrote the booklet in consumer friendly language. “This is what this benefit is, this is what it does for you, and this is how much it’s going to cost.”
We wanted to come up with a consistent internal brand, so we used colour coding to distinguish between different types of messaging. We went a bit further with our look and feel than we have done with other corporate materials. It was a lot glossier than anything else we’d produced. I think it was a great example of how you can stay within corporate guidelines but create something that stands out from the crowd, to make it more engaging for the intended audience.
We recognised three key groups within our people: Family-orientated people who had chosen family-focused benefits; an older population whose key interests were in retirement and savings and a population of users who were more interested in activity and fitness-related benefits.
We tried to take an ‘Apple genius’ approach: You’ve told us what you like, here are some benefits that you may be interested in, how it will all work and this is what it costs. We saw big increases in the uptake of things people probably had bought elsewhere – like critical illness cover. People were saying, “I’ve been paying a fortune for this through my mortgage provider”. People were basically moving their business in-house, and saving themselves a lot of money in the process.
Finally, we spent more time faceto-face with our people, guiding them through the process. We can really see it working; people are helping others, actively encouraging them to go online and make purchases for themselves.
Results were better than we could have hoped. There was a 13% improvement in overall engagement. 89% of our overall population actively went online and made their choices. At the manufacturing location that we specifically targeted, engagement went from 60% to 94%, way beyond our target of 75%, which is incredible.
We saw a 26% increase in core benefits selections; classic insurance based products. We doubled purchases of voluntary benefits; cycle to work, computers for home and gourmet cards. Overall, we saw a 33% increase in employee expenditure through the flexible benefits portal. Our employees have become savvier buyers and they ask more questions now, so we want to address those in the future too.
We started off in a good position, but we’ve constantly improved it by continuing to invest in – and getting returns from – good communication. Our people are engaging with the process much more. It just shows what clear communication, done well, can actually achieve.
BIOGRAPHY – WILL SMITH
Will Smith is Senior Reward & Performance Manager for Britvic plc responsible for Pay, Bonus and Benefits strategy and related communications across the organisation. He has global experience in reward, buying and strategic marketing across different sectors including FMCG, retail & financial services