No-one likes to think they are getting less from their benefits package – here’s how to handle change without demotivating employees
Employee benefits have become increasingly vital, whether firms utilise them to attract top talent or employees rely on these perks due to financial constraints. Few things have the potential to unsettle and demoralise employees as much as changes to their take-home package.
The immediate impact of a change can cause anxiety, concern and even anger, leading to destabilisation and a fall in morale and motivation.
Yet, what's truly significant is the enduring repercussions of cultural mistrust among employees. This scepticism could lead to widespread disengagement and a drop in business performance if individuals perceive any reduction in their entitlements or diminished valuation compared to before.
Clear, sensitive and honest communication about operational changes is crucial to prevent adverse reactions and to ensure your business’s long-term health and performance.
Address the needs of the individual
There's no one-size-fits-all approach to make 100% sure that employees feel motivated and driven rather than deflated and disappointed after changes in their benefits. Nevertheless, the focus must always be on recognising and catering to the needs of the individual.
Start the communication by explicitly addressing how the revised benefits programme will affect them personally. Demonstrate that you care about their wellbeing and understand the impact on their individual circumstances.
Communication channels, specific messaging and timescales will be different in each business. Here are five universal communication tips for ensuring employees come out of the other side of this type of operational change feeling understood, heard, and engaged:
- Be human first. Don’t talk about the business. Employees need to hear that you care about what’s happening to them. Speak to your teams in a human and down-to-earth way by explaining how this change will affect them first.
- Explain why. The bigger picture is still important. After addressing the personal impact, your employees will want context around why the review is necessary.
- Use simple, jargon-free language. Connecting with your employees by talking to them simply, in real-life terms and using everyday language will help keep those corporate barriers down and build trust.
- Establish two-way communication. Address concerns quickly and honestly by encouraging a two-way dialogue in a format your people are comfortable with. Email, written letter, face-to-face: choose communication channels you know your employees will respond to and engage with the best.
- Inspire confidence and trust. The changes might be complex for some people but aim to inspire confidence and trust in your decisions. Be honest, acknowledge concerns, highlight the positives where possible and provide a clear path forward. Tailor your communications to address individual needs, ensuring employees feel heard and supported throughout the process.
Not all pay restructures are negative
Of course, not all benefits reviews result in adverse outcomes for employees. Some employees prefer the updated benefits. Ensuring a tailored, employee and individual-focused approach to your internal communications is even more critical in these situations. This will provide clarity, honesty and reasoning behind the changes affecting people differently.
Indeed, when businesses perform well, benefits reviews can be overwhelmingly positive. Naturally, the pressure on communication could be more acute in these instances. However, sharing the impact on employees first is still sound, as this will make the biggest impression on morale and motivation.
Build trust and respect to inspire
On paper, operational changes to your company may lead to increased efficiencies. Indeed, a simple Google search will give you templates and lists of practical tasks to undertake when communicating change, such as a benefits review.
However, using templated letters and sending long emails about what’s happening without putting your employees at the centre of your strategy ignores the human and emotional aspects.
Maintaining team morale and engagement is paramount and can mean the difference between success and failure.
Without a focus on your people and how these changes will affect them, alongside transparent communication around the reasons behind these changes, you’re likely to have a demotivated team on your hands, which could have a longer-term impact on your business performance.
The workforce and employee buy-in to your operational changes will make the difference, not the operational changes themselves.
Being direct, honest, and clear about what is happening on an individual level and delivering the message in a caring, personalised and respectful way will build the trust and respect you need to inspire your employees to stay motivated through this change.
If you’re looking to enhance the effectiveness of your reward and benefits communications, get in touch with us.