Employers often experience the same challenges of employee engagement year after year— from overcoming disinterest in benefits, to enhancing the onboarding process and boosting employee participation. These concerns are valid, as the industry grapples with higher turnover rates and waning employee satisfaction, but they can no longer be solved by traditional means. As technology advances, employers now have resources to meet employees in channels where they communicate best. So, instead of seeking to tweak old approaches to employee engagement, let’s talk about how employers can truly engage employees in 2019. Here are four proven tactics:
1. Leverage Gamification
Workers commonly believe that benefits are overly complex or boring, and while employers attempt to address that concern on the surface, the issue could likely be that the communication of benefits is complex or boring. That’s one area where your organization can leverage gamification using employee incentives or assessment-based tools.
By providing your employees with gamified incentives to complete onboarding steps or learn about benefits options, you can incite real engagement within your organization and your benefits. In addition, this strategy doesn’t only apply to healthcare and conventional benefits, but can be used year-round with other programs. For example, the UnitedHealthcare’s Motion wellness program, using step-tracker devices, incentivizes employees to stay active during the workday by offering financial contributions to employees’ HSA/HRAs. At Hodges-Mace we actually use gamification for our wellness program too with quarterly competitions and weekly drawings for employees who log their activity.
Game-based assessment tools can also enhance employee onboarding or training by pushing employees to learn more about the company and their benefits in an interactive, engaging format. That usage data can be utilized further to find out what is most impactful on an individual level, helping employers become more responsive and deliver better employee experiences.
2. Cultivate Leadership and Bolster Company Culture
Engaging the modern workforce means engaging their career goals. With technology, your organization can become more responsive to those needs, and truly embody a growth culture that meets employees’ expectations. Similar to how gamified assessment strategy might assist in boosting employee benefits participation, employee communication tools have the possibility to identify underdeveloped leaders within your company, connect employees to supervisors and provide outlets for continued mentorship.
These kind of engagement tactics can form stronger employee-management bonds. On a larger scale, with a tool such as SmartBen NOW, employers can send custom, company-wide messages to empower employees with benefits knowledge.
On a more personal scale, some employee communication tools or strategies can assist in setting up the employee and manager one-on-one, which is a powerful driver of engagement. In one study1, 83% of workers participating in a mentoring program found their experience directly influenced their desire to stay at their organization. Ultimately, these kinds of engagement strongly impact the employee’s sense of belonging, and positively affect employee retention.
HR must approach employees directly about helping them progress in their career. For example SurveyMonkey distributes inclusion surveys that ask employees career and company assessment questions about furthering their careers and expressing opinions at work. By making available the resources for personal development, you effectively engage workers with learning tools and career path guidance, while identifying and empowering future leaders within your organization.
3. Target Millennials With Faster, Easier, Smarter Benefits
It’s no surprise that the benefits industry is clamoring to meet millennial needs — as of 2017, millennials now account for the largest cohort in the labor force2, more than Gen Xers and baby boomers. So as we adapt our standards to engage this generation of employees, organizations should look beyond standard approaches to benefits communication. With the amount of time and budget employers expend to give the best benefits, it’s imperative for HR make benefits as accessible as possible. And as the millennial workforce has shown us, the way to do that is make accessing benefits faster, less complicated, and more relevant. The short answer? Utilize technology to streamline benefits.
In a recent global study by Aruba, a Hewlett Packard Enterprise company, employees in fully-digital workplaces were found to have stronger job satisfaction and more positive outlooks on work-life balance compared to those in workplaces behind the times3. It stands that offering digital benefits communication is a significant step toward becoming a 21st century workplace — for example, a benefits communication tool can guide employees to all the benefits and resources available to them in a single, easy-to-navigate place. Remember that millennials are always on the go, so a mobile engagement and benefits tool that can keep up with their lifestyle is crucial.
Additionally, the most millennial-friendly benefits communication tool can help beneficiaries understand their PTO, vacation, and other benefits. 70% of millennial employees report work-life balance is a very important aspect of their careers4. When these kinds of benefits are not clear to employees, it severely diminishes their experience. A quick way to solve this is to consider new avenues for communication. One Hodges-Mace client transformed their employee engagement and responsiveness to benefits by sending notifications to the employees’ smartphones instead of email. Not only did employees notice (and respond to) these smartphone notifications more than emails, these communications also helped make the employer seem present in their employees lives.
4. Diversify Your Digital and Human Touchpoints
While the modern workforce craves technology to facilitate work, HR should be aware of over-automating aspects of the company. With the general progression of technology tending toward automation actually replacing workers5, understand how over-automation can hurt your human touch, thereby disengaging your employees. And this applies equally to employee communication. While technology can provide various engagement tools and strategies, employees still need to see and feel that employers are putting in the effort in a personal way.
Technology is not a panacea for employee dissatisfaction, but a catalyst for engagement. And as with the example of tools that connect employees with their managers, employers should use resources to facilitate the interactions most important to employees, while automating the micro-moments in between. The human-tech balance is a difficult one to strike, but crucial for delivering a seamless, effectual employee experience.
Tailoring employee communication to a wide variety of touchpoints, digital and human, speaks volumes about your organization and its values. For benefits communication, the clear solution over full-automation is a Custom Communications program, one that engages employees via digital, print, and human interactions. This multi-channel approach to employee communication forms a holistic experience where employees have benefits at their fingertips and can engage with their benefits on their terms.
When seeking to engage your employees, listen and respond to their unique preferences. Let technology and innovative resources such as gamification and benefits apps augment your organization’s offerings. The plethora of communication technology tools today will eliminate the most common problems associated with employee engagement. Just remember to never lose sight of the human components that attracted your employees in the first place.
Originally published in BenefitsPRO November 2018