Charities engaging with their employees with benefits information
For many charities, salaries can often be more restricted than in the private sector. However, that being said, the charity sector is also arguably made up of people who want to make a difference, and salary isn’t always the driving force for many working in this space. In fact research suggests that a person working for a private company would have to earn another £27,000 per year to be as happy as their not for charity counterparts.
These sorts of statistics already stand you in good stead; however, charities still need to make every effort to compete against the private sector. A robust employee benefits package can be a great way to do this as it offers a perfect opportunity to offer additional, cost effective rewards, particularly when budgets are tight.
It is also widely recognised and well documented that a good benefits package helps employers of all kinds with attracting and retaining talent, and sets you apart from your competitors. Good communication and the benefits you offer can be a great way to showcase a charity’s values and engage staff in the overall mission.
This is particularly important in a world where attracting and retaining top talent is becoming an increasingly difficult challenge for employers, as we move away from the typical ‘career for life’ and see people moving jobs far more frequently. Benefits give employees confidence that they are valuable to your charity and that you have their best interests in mind.
It is also a great way to demonstrate to your charity’s staff that you care about them, their families and their welfare. I believe that the more we can engage staff with their benefits, the greater their wellbeing and productivity, and the better connected they’ll feel towards the charity in question. However, to be successful it’s vital that this is effectively communicated to employees and that you have fully understood what they want and need from such a package.
After all, you can offer all of the benefits in the world, but unless you understand your people and what they want, you risk your employees not valuing them.
So, how do you make sure you engage your employees with their benefits; how do you help them understand their value, providing a return on investment for you, and make sure you continue to have happy employees?
COMMUNICATION IS KEY. There is little point in offering a good benefits package, unless you take the time to tell your employees about it. But what constitutes effective communication will vary according to each charity. The points below are what I believe to be the key ingredients when communicating for increased employee engagement:
- Authentic tone, honesty and openness.
- Consistent, concise and clear messaging that communicates the goals, purpose/direction of the charity and how the employee can help achieve it.
- Transparency with evaluation and accountability.
HOW YOU SHOULD BE COMMUNICATING. There’s no right or wrong way here, and there certainly won’t be a one size fits all solution. We know that time and budget constraints are often factors in determining how we communicate and I’m sure this will play a part in your own communication activities. However, there are some considerations that can be applied when it comes to communication and engagement.
DEVELOP A COMMUNICATION STRATEGY. It’s important that you know and understand what you want to communicate before you set about telling your employees. Clear and easy to understand communication is probably the most important part of any successful strategy. Unless you have a clear understanding about the message you want to get across, you can’t expect your employees to understand either.
As well as more obvious milestones such as the recruitment and onboarding stage, there are a number of other checkpoints or timings that you could think about pegging a strategy to. For example, you may wish to plan your benefits communication strategy around renewal dates, or perhaps highlight a different benefit each quarter.
CONSIDER YOUR COMMUNICATION FREQUENCY. How often you choose to communicate your benefits will be determined in part by the communications strategy you develop in your charity. With regular communication activities you are more likely to reach your audience and see them taking action, as what they weren’t interested in first time around may be applicable to them now. For example, if you promote a cycle to work scheme just once a year, take-up may not be as high as if perhaps you promote the scheme at the start of the year and again in the summer months.
MULTI-CHANNEL COMMUNICATION. Where possible, I would always suggest that a multi-channel communication approach is best. There are so many ways that we can get our messages across; email, printed material, face-to-face, online, digital, so we shouldn’t rely on just one method. Of course, you may not be able to use all of the methods mentioned, but even just a couple of different communication methods will make a difference to the engagement you get.
I’m a firm believer in allowing employees easy access to their benefits information, all the time. I suggested earlier that when you initially communicate a benefit, it may not be of interest to all of your employees, or the right time for everyone to take action. By making benefits information easily available, your employees can access this information when it’s relevant to them. And, if you have everything held in one place, on an online benefits portal for example, you can regularly drive your employees here.
Communication is the cornerstone of an engaged workforce in the charity sector. Integrating these best practices will help your charity connect better with the people who work for you and create a more engaged workforce that contributes to successful outcomes.