Spotlight on HR Communication…

CPC Business Development

By Kim Cochrane, Communications Consultant, ACS and Buck Consultants.

Are You Communicating to Employees Most Effectively?

Every year, most companies try to communicate HR-related issues to their employees. Unfortunately many employees have no idea what the information means or how to use it.

On a regular basis, the responsibility to communicate this information falls to the Human Resources department, who often don’t know how to communicate the information in the most effective way.

Are you doing everything you can to ensure employee understanding about important HR-related issues?

As the world of employee benefits evolves with new plan designs, cost-containment efforts and changing demographics, it is critical to take a fresh look at your overall employee communications strategy and ensure that it is effectively addressing these HR-related issues.

Some companies are secure in the knowledge that they have a great employee benefits program and don’t need to communicate t to employees because the benefits speak for themselves. This mindset is changing.

Sooner or later, many companies will face cost pressures resulting in significant benefit changes and reductions. Deductibles will be applied for the first time on drug and dental benefits, and medical benefits will be redesigned. Therefore, employee communications will be more important than ever.

What are the issues?

  • The communication and HR departments don’t always agree on what to communicate, when to communicate, and how to communicate
  • Employee HR communication is often done by someone who is not a trained communications professional
  • Both HR and communications professionals may not be familiar with the most important issues or the best way to strategically communicate this information over the long-term
  • Messages may not be complete or lack important content, layout or design to make them more visually interesting
  • The importance of employee benefits and total rewards packages as an attraction and retention tool may not be fully understood

As communicators, we may not be familiar with the nuances of communicating employee benefits and pension information to employees and we may need to improve our awareness about these issues to develop an effective strategy and maximize communication effectiveness.

What can you do?

  • Learn about the most important issues related to employee benefits communication
  • Partner with your HR department to ensure that staff there are maximizing their efforts regarding employee communication
  • Use the expertise of a specialized HR communication firm

Next Steps

  • Be proactive – Decide what you want to accomplish and be specific about your goals and develop quantifiable measurements. Here are some examples of possible goals:
    • Receive fewer calls about claims submission to the HR department
    • Develop a special section on your web site for employee benefits and pension
    • Offer ongoing employee seminars and information sessions to educate employees about what their pension and/or benefits include
    • Develop a plan to measure these goals to ensure your success
  • Target your audience – Your communication approach needs to appeal to a diverse audience including: long-term participants, new participants, spouses and retirees. Diversity issues like gender, age, ethnic background, education level, and language are all critical considerations.
  • Create a brand for HR communication – For communication purposes, it helps to think of benefits or pension as a product rather than a service and brand it accordingly.
  • Develop and deliver the right message – Keeping your goals in mind, create a message that works for your audience. Do you want to have your senior management deliver a message; will you develop brochures, newsletters, posters, flyers, a web site, an e-mail, or a special event? Or maybe a combination of all of these? You know your audience and you need to create a communication plan that will achieve your goals.

As you know, the workforce is aging and it is getting harder to attract and retain talent and we need to be strategic about the messages we are delivering to employees to ensure they are getting the right information at the right time.

Also, if your company is striving to become a Top 50 Employer, you need to ensure that employees are aware of and understand their benefits and pension information.

Ultimately, we want to be sure that we retain our best employees and that they don’t use their lack of understanding and knowledge about employee benefits as one of their reasons for securing new employment.

Kim Cochrane is a communications consultant with ACS and Buck Consultants. She can be reached at

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