On behalf of Pamela Kent, Account Director, Caburn Hope

You wouldn’t ask a web developer to do your advertising, so surely something as important as reward communication should be to a left to a specialist?…

For the past decade, various international HR management consultancies have been providing excellent brokerage and facilitation services to help companies deliver reward packages to their people. As well as advising to the highest standards on the best benefits to offer, they will also broker and supply them via sophisticated platforms that give employees the opportunity to choose their own benefits online.

Once built, these platforms are often managed on a fee per employee basis, through multi-year contracts. They can also offer communication services relating to the benefits provided by their clients to employees.

But is this always enough?

A few years into these contracts, companies are noticing that engagement scores in their employee surveys are no longer rising. Even though so much money and effort has been invested in developing and delivering reward strategy, the impact seemed to have tailed off.

Feeling compelled to act, worried HR Directors send out another email or brochure promoting the benefits they offer – sometimes they even spend more money by changing those carefully crafted benefits in their efforts to build engagement – but to no avail, those survey scores remain stubbornly static.

Why does this happen? In a word: communication.

Companies invest in reward and benefits to attract, retain and motivate talented people who will help to deliver their business strategy – it’s part of the ‘deal’. But far too many firms merely provide good reward packages and leave it at that, expecting their people to engage automatically by just looking at the software that’s provided.

The problem is that software experts are not communication experts. Just because they deliver great transactional portals for selecting and managing benefits, that doesn’t make them experts at the nuanced business of building engagement in a disparate workforce.

If you communicate your reward strategy well – in a way that’s fully aligned to your company’s brand, culture and business targets – you’ll be doing more than merely engaging your people, you’ll be making a great contribution to your overall business strategy.

HR Directors are under pressure to provide and deliver benefits on time and on budget. It’s tempting to get one supplier to provide the benefits, the platform they run on and the communications too. But doing it that way is a mistake that could cost much more to rectify than just doing it right in the first place.

Why do companies let this happen? I think it’s because that they don’t always grasp the importance of emotional engagement inside their own organisations. They do externally – I guarantee that, without exception, every successful company is expert at getting their customers to emotionally engage with their brand because if they weren’t they would quickly go out of business. But I would say only around 15-20% of companies clearly demonstrate an understanding of how important it is to use the same approach for reward communication.

Your people need to appreciate the true value of what they’re being offered and emotionally engage with it. Employees need to see reward within the wider context of their relationship with the company. They need to realise that the company respects them and has taken care to tailor their benefits, but that in return something is expected of them. In short, they need to understand the employee value proposition and buy into it.

Getting all this across and keeping it alive in people’s minds takes skill, creativity and innovation – the software platform is just a part of it. If reward communication is seen as nothing more than an afterthought, it will fail. It’s a difficult, subtle job best left to experts.

Companies need to ensure they’re using specialist people to do this specialist job – someone who really understands what makes employees tick.

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