Benefits

The Future of HR Communications

By Jennifer Benz

Aug. 26, 2016

4647067847_a0081332c5_o_300x300, https://www.flickr.com/photos/yagankiely/4647067847/in/photolist-85Drnr-bR4Anv-bR4HfT-bR4BnR-bR4Gdv-bCbxpW-bC9W9W-bC9Yf1-85GyzA-85DqC8-85DoFT-85DnMc-85GBPs-bR4tmP-bC9LM5-84eVmv-bC9MCJ-bR4rnz-bR4sDt-bC9L5j-bR4rSH-8sdWbQ-7SuDto-7SrnWv-9zvgtG-ekJpAW-fCALHx-85GBZw-7SuDLG-7SuDEy-7SuDzs-gmd4bk-d3T6nW-7SuE8J-eRYVZD-8saSGv-eSboey-7Sro5F-fCAKr2-85LX6M-7R27Lt-hFuU2T-8saStc-85GBVj-8sdWAh-8sdWFC-8Tfgwf-e5V5Nk-e61JBE-d3T7as
Photo credit: Yagan Kiely

This year marks the 10th anniversary of my company, Benz Communications, and I’ve spent a lot of time with my team reflecting on the past decade.

We’ve been thinking about how HR and employee benefits communications has evolved during that time. And, in some cases, how much it hasn’t. A lot of companies still communicate like it’s 2006 — before the iPhone existed, when social media was in its infancy, and a significant portion of Americans still lacked easy Internet access.

With each year, we have more tools and technology. Yet, moving forward and evolving the way we communicate internally continues to be a struggle.

WF_WebSite_BlogHeaders-18Organizations are often challenged because so much has changed and so much is new. You might worry you’ll invest in a new tool that will be out of vogue next year. That’s why we collaborated with Preston Lewis, founder and CEO of Intactic, to document the guiding principles of modern internal communication.

As HR continues to be asked to play a bigger and more strategic role, modern communication strategies and tactics can help you succeed. Companies that are investing in and using more modern communications are driving better business results. These five factors will help you focus on areas to modernize and invest in.

  1. Data. Successful internal communication strategies are supported by real-time data about employees’ behaviors and preferences. What do they need more of? What do they want less of? How do they prefer to receive information?

Data can also help you breach the divides between recruiting, IT, HRIS, internal communications and HR. Many departments within your organization may have a shared interest in the data so you may be able to realize economies of scale. Start any new strategy by digging into your data.

  1. Experience. Designing for user experience isn’t a new concept. Marketers have been doing it for ages. Simply put, an experience is a collection of touch points that invokes a response. When designing experiences, every touch point, and its purpose, should be intentional. This is a principle that will guide the future of internal communications.

Creating the best possible employee experience is about getting the right message in the right media to the right person at the right time.

  1. Personalization. Modern communication uses technology to create consumerlike experiences at work. Internal channels will start to include the same robust personalization as consumer tools, including personalized email salutations; messages that direct employees to information that fits their specific needs, financial situation, and lifestyle; and information that’s delivered via their preferred communication channels.
  2. Emotion. Connecting employees to a bigger sense of purpose will be a vital part of the future of work. This is especially important to millennials, who will total up to two-thirds of the workforce in the next five years.

Companies that understand their audiences and the concerns that keep them up at night are able to develop deeper and more meaningful connections with employees. One of the reasons I love benefits communication is its ability to connect with and engage employees on an emotional level.

  1. Mobile. A critical factor in shaping a modern communication strategy is pervasive mobile technology. The number of apps supporting HR is already overwhelming, and it is tempting to think that eventually one app will solve all communications and engagement challenges. Instead, we should be thinking about and planning for the company app store where a suite of apps will work together. According to the 2016 Executive Enterprise Mobility report from Apperian, more than one-third of companies have an app store today, up from 23 percent in 2015. HR pros can be partnering with IT and internal communications to articulate the vision for mobile in their organizations.

It’s an exciting time to be in HR and to be a communications professional. Employees need your help now more than ever to improve their health, finances and futures. Leveraging modern communication strategies and tactics, we can inspire employees and grow thriving businesses.

Jennifer Benz leads Segal Benz, a national leader in HR and employee benefits communications. She was honored as one of Workforce’s “Game Changers” in 2013. Contact her at jbenz@segalbenz.com or follow her on Twitter at @jenbenz.

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