Getting Your Messages ‘Heard’

You can create the best comp and benefit plan in the world, but it will be all for naught if you don’t get your communication strategy right.

dv1492011Despite the many and varied tools available to them, employers continue to struggle to communicate in a way that ensures their messages are being heard. Sure, employers may be getting information into the hands of their employees. But is it really resonating with them?

The above point wasn’t lost on those responsible for programming WorldatWork’s 2016 Total Rewards Conference and Exposition in San Diego, which featured several sessions focusing on comp and benefit communications.

(Indeed, each of the half-dozen sessions I attended included at least a couple of slides emphasizing the critical role of effective communications.)

The value of a well-crafted communication strategy was certainly evident in a session titled  “Cutting-Edge Communication Strategies to Drive Employee Engagement.”

John Hyttinen, senior director of total rewards at ADP Canada, detailed the key role communications played as ADP went about revamping its global bonus program. Business leaders, he said, realized they needed to do a better job leveraging multimedia in order to communicate those changes to employees.

To that end, ADP engaged GuideSpark to build a solution for delivering content to its multigenerational workforce. (GuideSpark provides internal communication platforms that specialize in areas such as benefits, financial wellness and talent management.)

In the session, GuideSpark’s CEO and Co-Founder Keith Kitani provided attendees with a series of tips aimed at creating more effective communications, including …

  • Think holistically about your employee-engagement touch points. “To build a connection, you need consistency” from beginning to end.
  • Make sure your communication includes a theme. “Are you trying to get above the noise or just check off a compliance box?”
  • Put your employees at the center of your communication. “You need to connect on a much more personal level” and “help them understand what’s in it for them.”
  • Personalize your communication. He pointed out that “35 percent of Amazon’s revenue is driven by recommendations.”
  • Use a multi-channel approach.
  • Leverage trends such as social, mobile and Big Data.
  • Embed communications in the employee workflow so employees are able to get the information when they need it.
  • Measure your success. “It’s really important that you measure what you’re doing” and use that data to modify your approach.

At least one presentation at the conference addressed the challenges of getting your message across to the organization’s business leaders. No easy task, either.

In a session titled “Storytelling: Influence Leaders and Make a Business Impact,” Britt Wittman, director of executive compensation at Intel, outlined ways benefit and comp leaders can effectively use storytelling to make their cases.

Speaking to a packed room, Wittman explained how stories, when properly used, can be a powerful tool that helps “people remember key messages” and “drives them to act.”

To prove his point, Wittman (who, as the session’s title suggested, focused his presentation on influencing business leaders) shared a story involving former Intel CEO Paul Otellini. “One of the reasons Intel’s stock had gone sideways [for a while] despite strong financial results was the fact that the story Paul was telling The Street was not a compelling vision of the future.”

(Wittman prefaced his remarks by saying that, while Otellini was the “goat of this story,” he was a good CEO.)

You can present the data, Wittman said, but that alone isn’t going to inspire people to take action.

The key to delivering a good story, of course, is to know your audience, Wittman said. “The more you know that audience,” he explained, “the more likely your story is going to have an emotional connection. If you’re talking to someone who hates sports, building sports analogies into your presentation simply isn’t going to work.”

Fortunately, he said, benefit and comp professionals are often presenting to the same individuals—so “leverage what you know about them.”

Effective storytelling, Wittman said, requires setting the context. You need to make sure business leaders understand what you’re talking about, he said, adding that doing so could make a huge difference in getting a “yes” rather than a “no” to a particular request.

 

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