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7 Ways to Effectively Communicate Employee Compensation and Benefit Plans

Updated on June 8, 2017

Employees care about their compensation and benefits—so when they receive a communication about those topics, they pay attention.

But only 30% of employees are happy with HR communications. In fact:
• Just 25% of employees feel they have the information they need to make decisions about compensation.
• And a scant 15% feel they are equipped to make decisions about benefit plans.

So how do you communicate these important topics to give employees the information they need? Follow these seven essential steps:


1. Understand Employees’ Needs and Preferences

The best place to start is by focusing on employees’ point of view. You may have existing research findings (such as an attitude survey)—or you may need to conduct qualitative research such as focus groups. But, in any case, it’s essential to know:

  • How well employees understand the current employee compensation program
  • What they believe is valuable—and where they perceive weaknesses or gaps
  • How employees prefer to receive communication from HR

2. Set Objectives

Now that you have a strong foundation of knowledge about employees, think about your desired outcomes. What do you want to accomplish? What do you need employees to know, believe and do?

3. Develop a Planned Approach

Communication is too complicated and important to manage in a casual way. Based on your objectives, develop a communication plan.

When creating a plan, consider:

  • Stakeholders. Do key people within your organization—like leaders and managers—need to play a role?
  • Messaging. What’s the news you need to convey? How does this specific communication support the big picture?
  • Timing. When do employees need to enroll in benefits or complete their performance objectives?
  • Channels. What is the right mix of methods—from meetings to text alerts—to communicate effectively?

Provide Information that Employee Value
Provide Information that Employee Value

4. Enlist Champions

The more complex the topic, the more you need to create opportunities for dialogue—for employees to listen to what’s changing and have an opportunity to get their questions answered. That’s why it’s important to identify and coach people who can become communication champions. Often these advocates are members of the HR team. But they can also be leaders (especially those in charge of a function or location) or managers.

The key to developing a champion strategy is to ensure that your advocates feel knowledgeable and prepared. It’s a good idea to hold face-to-face meetings to provide champions with detailed information. And provide tools like key messages and frequently asked questions (with answers) for champions to refer to as they talk with employees.

5. Use each Tool for what it does Best

There’s nothing wrong with email to send a quick, scannable message. But too many organizations use email for absolutely every communication, from giving a heads up to providing a detailed explanation of every benefit offered. It’s no wonder that employees miss essential information, as they scramble to delete the onslaught of email before it overwhelms them.

That’s why you need to diversify how you communicate employee compensation and benefits and tailor content to the right channel.

For example:

  • For detailed, complicated topics, schedule in-person briefing sessions
  • When the employees’ spouse or significant other is involved in the decision, consider mailing a package to workers’ homes
  • If many of your employees don’t work in an office, explore making information available on mobile devices

1. Communicate Simply, Clearly and Candidly

  • Through all the methods you use to communicate employee benefits, be as clear and simple as possible.
  • The inverted pyramid is your friend. When it comes to organizing information, this classic structure puts the most relevant information first and saves the details for later on. What’s great about this style is that you can use it for something as simple as an email, or as complex as a full benefits guide.
  • Focus on what employees need to do. It’s no secret that employees are inundated with messages. Make sure that communication cuts through that clutter by telling them exactly what they need to do.
  • Make it visual. Ditch the long, narrative copy and go for something easier to read. You can create a table to explain cost comparisons, or bullets to highlight key changes. Whenever possible, use icons, photos or sketches to illustrate your points.
  • Don’t sugarcoat. Sometimes communicating employee compensation is just bad news—costs increase, benefits are eliminated. Avoid the temptation to soften the hard truth; your smart employees will see through any attempt to spin the facts. Instead, offer reasons why a change was made, how costs were managed and how they can choose wisely.
  • Celebrate the good things. Benefits are designed to make employees’ lives better both at work and at home. Communicate it to remind employees about the benefits that can make their lives better, including health care accounts, preventative care, wellness initiatives and financial planning.
  • Serve it up. Don’t just state the information coldly, include tips, advice, and FAQs that will help employees make smarter decisions.

7. Emphasize Action

When communicating either benefits or compensation, there’s often an action employees need to take. Keep that in mind as you draft your communication. To help you stay action-oriented, use key phrases like:
• Act now
• What you need to do
• Reminder
• How to
• Don’t miss out


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