Last week I attended the Osney Media Reward and Benefits 2011 event. One of themes I took from the day was the challenge employers are facing when it comes to communicating with employees about reward. Several of the speakers shared their experiences about what works best for them – but as they work in different businesses, their approaches necessarily have some differences.
The first point to note is to make sure you know what your message is. Richard Beeby, group reward manager at Comet, said that they had been honest to their employees that their pay levels have been affected by a two-year pay freeze. Comet’s approach was to highlight that reward is more than just base pay, and actually when they looked at their whole reward package they found they were the second highest payer in their sector.
The second stage is getting the message across to staff. This proved particularly challenging for FirstGroup, where most employees don’t have a desk. John Chilman, group reward and pensions director, explained that the key problems facing FirstGroup were that, aside from the cost of both, face-to-face communication was difficult due to shift patterns and a mobile workforce, and paper-based communications didn’t engage employees and were often too complex.
Research among employees revealed that they are often looking for more personalised information, and the internet was chosen as the best communication method to provide this. The resulting “my Rewards” portal has general and customised information on pay, pensions, benefits and shares. But the company also had to design a communication strategy to ensure employees knew about the new service. For this they used posters, letters, leaflets and booklets, and included some material that was tailored by age group to ensure employee participation. Among the lessons learned Chilman noted: “Simplify messages as far as possible; and develop useful tools, not static information first”.
A presentation from Guide Dogs for the Blind also looked at how the company communicated with employees when they made some major changes to their reward package. One of the key initiatives here was to get managers involved in educating the workforce about the changes, as well as ensuring that employees knew why the changes were being made. When it came to methods of communication, the employer used ”all formats” to ensure they were accessible to all employees, including those that are blind or partially-sighted.