How a Modernized Employee Communication Experience Can Help State and Local Governments Recruit and Retain Young Talent

Mark Rader Benefits Communication, Exclusive, Industry Insights

The benefits you offer your workforce are pretty darn good—that’s one of the perks of a government job, right? Thing is, a lot of your employees (especially the younger ones) don’t fully understand everything you’re offering…which means they don’t fully appreciate everything you’re offering…which means they’re more likely to jump ship for a job somewhere else.

The good news: As a savvy HR pro, you can nip this problem in the bud in two ways: 1) by sharing information through younger workers’ preferred channels, and 2) by borrowing some “user experience” ideas from popular consumer brands (something private sector HR teams are already doing). As a result, you can meet tech-savvy workers where they are and make them feel informed and taken care of. Here’s how:

#1. Go digital as much as possible

Consider sharing your benefits guides exclusively as a PDF. Not only will you save money, your smartphone-using employees (i.e. 99% of them) will be able to refer to the information on the fly. Another way to embrace smartphones: In the private sector, many companies are starting to text messages to employees’ personal phone numbers. For security reasons, that might not be possible, but it’s worth asking about. Finally, make use of digital collaboration tools your employees use every day to get work done—like Microsoft Office’s Yammer, for example—to spread the word about your most important initiatives.

#2. Make and share simple video content

Use your webcam or smartphone to record quick, helpful videos, then email them to your workforce. Reminders about important benefits deadlines, money-saving health care tips, a very low-budget ‘movie trailer’ for your upcoming wellness event…the sky’s the limit. You might even play around with a video editing app or free software like iMovie (for Mac) or Windows Movie Maker (for PC).

Younger workers (and heck, even older workers) absorb a lot of video content these days, so a change of format might be just the thing to grab more eyeballs.

#3. Strive for more personalization

I don’t have a pie chart to back this up, but I’m 100% sure it’s true: human beings like being treated like special individuals and hate wasting time on stuff that doesn’t apply to them.
So the better job you do of tailoring your benefits guidance to employees’ unique needs, the more engaged they’ll be, and the smarter choices they’ll make.

Some specific tips:
• Organize information by relevant employee group whenever possible so your employees can focus on what applies to them and ignore the rest.
• Instead of talking about what “employees” need to do, address your audience directly with the word “you.” Every communication you send is read one person at a time.
• Instead of leaning on one-size-fits-all educational content like videos and benefits presentations, consider providing your employees an interactive decision support tool that asks employees about their unique situation and provides guidance tailored to their health care situation.

#4. Avoid jargon and legalese

Many organizations—especially those with fairly conservative cultures—default to a dry, “professional,” jargon-filled communication style because it feels safest, and they think that if they don’t sound impressive, employees won’t respect or trust them. Wrong.

In reality, unnecessarily formal language frustrates and confuses people, especially when they’re trying to understand important health care and retirement topics. And when people feel frustrated and confused, they either bail from whatever you’re asking of them, or make poor choices — not good.

#5. Make your messaging more timely and relevant

When planning out a communications calendar, start with the employees’ point of view, instead of what the company wants to communicate. An example? Hit them with financial guidance when money is naturally on their minds, like when they get bonuses, promotions, and around tax time—not during a randomly assigned “Financial Wellness August.”

#6. Don’t skimp on design and user experience

Behavioral science studies show that people absorb more information and make better decisions when they’re not stressed out. This is why it pays to pay attention to the look and feel of the content you share, and to prioritize clarity and ease-of-use.

With intranet pages or printed collateral, devote just as much time to the layout as you do to the copy. Be thoughtful in your use of images. Anticipate when employees might have questions, and present your information accordingly. Above all, resist the urge to dump everything on employees at once and instead parcel out information into multiple, digestible communications. Providing links to bonus content can help employees who want to learn more.