The Complete Guide to Effective Employee Reward Communication

November 12th 2020 Employee Communications Reward

Adopting a holistic approach to Total Reward is a powerful tool to attract and retain talent, and improve overall performance of organisations. But what happens when communication of these rewards falls short?

According to a 2017 report by Deloitte, 95% of companies either already had a total reward programme or planned to introduce one in the near future. However, more than two-thirds of employers struggle to communicate their total reward packages, leading to poor uptake and higher employee turnover. 

It’s estimated that employers lose £22.75 billion a year due to poor retention because they fail to communicate their reward and benefit offerings effectively. Yet by getting the communication just right, companies can reach – and even exceed – their total reward targets.

In this guide to putting together an employee reward communication strategy that works, we’ll look at the best ways to get your people to understand, value and engage with their total reward – and why this is vital if you want to improve the performance of your teams, and your business. We’ll also cover why it’s important to diversify your reward communication to speak to different levels and generations of employees, and the positive impact this will have on performance, company culture, and growth.

Effective Reward Communication Drives Performance

Companies are waking up to the connection between reward and performance, and they know it’s no longer enough to offer out-of-the-box perks to employees, who want to feel understood and valued as individuals. This means more complex reward strategies that align with the values of your organisation and your people.

It’s this uniqueness and complexity of reward packages which makes effective reward communication even more vital. In order to improve performance, retain talent and boost employee engagement, companies must communicate reward strategically and consistently, with a focus on their employees' needs.

Reward communication strategies that highlight employees’ role and contribution when it comes to an organisation's growth and success are most effective. Employees feel empowered when they understand the flexibility and control they have over their reward.

Employees also need to understand the reason their reward package exists, what it means for them and the company’s growth, and what's required of them to achieve the best from it.

And finally, to fully realise the power of reward in driving performance, reward strategies must be communicated in a multi-dimensional way that speaks to employees’ financial and emotional needs. It’s only when your teams make the connection between reward and their day-to-day lives, and see the control they have over their total reward, that they will feel motivated to engage and perform.

Read More: How to Drive Better Performance with Effective Reward Communication

Ensuring Your Employees Understand their Total Reward Package

More than two thirds of organisations are struggling to help employees understand and value their benefits package.

Employees that don’t fully understand the nuances of their total reward could be tempted to jump ship for (seemingly) greener pastures, based on the offer of a higher salary alone.

Identifying and addressing these communication gaps should be the first step in any reward communication strategy. Before you can start driving engagement, employees need to fully understand the breadth of what’s being offered to them. Here are a few areas to start looking at:

1. Ensure employees know what their ‘total reward' actually is.

Corporate jargon around share plans, pensions, and health insurance can create confusion. Break down more complex elements of your employees’ reward package into easy to understand language.

2. Review your reward communication tactics

New recruits are inundated with new information in their first weeks on the job. Are they actually going to read a 30-page company handbook, and remember it? Are emails really the best form of communication when your employees are inundated with emails all day? Where are the opportunities to get creative and inspiring with your communication?

3. Remind, repeat and reinforce

You can’t tell employees about all the components of their reward package once and expect them to remember it all. Reinforcement throughout the year is vital to ensure your teams understand their incentives. Invest in creating a consistent, ongoing reward communication strategy that goes beyond onboarding new recruits and speaks to your employees throughout the year.

4. Create a ‘safe space' for communication

Open communication is vital to ensure employees feel comfortable in discussing their reward packages with you. Negotiation can be intimidating, and you must also be transparent about employee reward – both in initial briefings, annual reviews, and in the event of any changes to the reward package.

Take a multi-channel approach to reward communication which includes different communication tactics – both digital and face to face – and repeat and reinforce over time. This is the best way to ensure your employees fully understand what you're offering them.

Providing information about employee reward in a way that’s clear and easy-to-understand is only half the picture though. The next step is to focus on communicating the true value of reward..

Read More: Why It’s Essential Your Employees Understand their Total Rewards Package

Communicating The Value Of Your Total Reward Package

Effectively communicating the value of employees’ total reward is a vital part of a reward communication strategy that drives increased job satisfaction, employee engagement, and performance.

Research shows that only 7% of global HR professionals are consistently achieving their benefits plan objectives, which they attribute to employees valuing what's being offered to them. 

So, how can you achieve this within your organisation? First, we need to recognise why communication around reward value so often fails. Often, communications about employee incentives is too general, and doesn't involve relatable real-life examples of these benefits in action. This not only leads to misunderstanding, but to employees underestimating the value of their rewards by up to 30%.

As well as speaking about the monetary value of incentives, you also need to appeal to employees’ emotional needs. Of course, salary and cost-saving is important to all of us, but people also want to know about growth opportunities, and how their rewards can be tailored to enhance their lives. Surveys have shown the three things employees value most are:

  • Money (such as bonuses, pensions, and discounts)
  • Choice (such as voluntary benefits, flexible pay, wellbeing)
  • Time (such as flexible working, holiday trading)

Use these as a starting point for shaping messaging about reward value, and ensure all elements of your reward package are presented in a holistic way. Employees might easily end up confused by a total reward package that appears disjointed, and it’s not enough to expect people to join the dots on their own. You have to show them how the whole package fits together, and how it aligns with what they care about.

Effectively communicating total reward value is vital when competitors and recruiters could be reaching out to your employees 24/7 with what they might view as a better deal – even if it’s not.

By tuning into and speaking to your employees’ personal goals – as well as their professional ones – and taking a real-life, holistic approach to your reward communication, the full value of your total reward becomes clear and tangible for your employees. When you achieve this, driving engagement becomes easier.

Read More: How to Ensure Your Employees Value their Total Reward Package

Driving Employee Engagement with Reward

Ensuring employees understand and value their total reward, including how it relates to their personal and work lives, is vital for meeting your retention and performance goals. In order to drive sustained engagement and ensure uptake of incentives, your reward communication must speak to your people’s emotional and professional needs at the right times, in the most effective way.

Companies that see higher employee engagement with reward are 25% more likely to be communicating with their teams at least every two months, specifically about their benefits. Consistent, regular reminders are important. Otherwise, incentives get put to the back of peoples’ minds and forgotten about amidst other concerns and considerations.

When shaping your reward communication strategy, here are some key considerations.

Engage with different generations in different ways

As new generations enter the workforce, they bring a new set of values and expectations. They also respond differently to different methods of communication. Targeting each group specifically means coming up with more creative ways to speak about reward – such as apps, videos, dedicated websites, and 121 sessions.

Leverage your employee data and analytics

Benefits platform Thomson’s found that only 28% of employers are using data and analytics to actively improve reward take-up, even though they have access to a vast amount of employee information within their rewards platform. Use what you already know about your employees to create a more personalised approach to communicating rewards.

Make the most of your company values and culture

A well-defined reward communication strategy reflects the values and culture of a company. When talking about the specifics of your total reward package, link it back to your company values. This tells employees why you’re offering what you’re offering, and reinforces value in a way that relates to their working lives. This has a cyclical impact: active engagement in reward that aligns with company values helps shape your company-wide culture as a result of changes in attitude and behaviour.

Overall, companies that want to get ahead of the game in their reward engagement need to rethink traditional approaches like generic emails, PDF attachments and transactional language. Instead, take a multi-channel approach that encompasses varied communication methods, and engages by providing real-life, personalised context.

When your reward communication strategy is clearly defined, placing employees’ needs and concerns at the centre, you can group specific tactics into programmes designed to address specific teams or management levels, such as your senior executives.

Read More: Why Your Employees Aren’t Engaging with your Total Rewards Package

How to Effectively Communicate Executive Reward

High-level executive reward packages are critical to an organisation’s success. However, they will only play the desired part in achieving your performance goals if you ensure senior employees fully understand all the components of their reward package, and how their total reward is impacted by both their individual and teams’ performance.

Communication around executive reward can miss the mark when companies don’t invest the time and effort into creating a personalised, “white-glove” communication strategy for their leadership teams. Here are four ways to ensure you’re effectively communicating your executive reward.

1. Take a tailored, human-first approach

Even if your senior executives all have the same reward package, you should tailor your communication separately to each individuals’ priorities and preferred communication styles.

2. Discuss rewards one-on-one

Written communication can be easily misunderstood, or overlooked by your busy senior team. Face-to-face communication should always prevail when it comes to executive reward. This way you can discuss complex elements such as investment opportunities and financial advice in a way that helps them get the most from their reward package.

3. Link reward with company values

High-level candidates are increasingly seeking roles in organisations whose values are aligned to theirs. This is why reward communication should always come back to your purpose and mission as an organisation. Find out what attracted your senior executives to your company and what inspires them to keep showing up and working hard for your success – then link this back to their reward.

4. Inspire executives with their total reward statement

A comprehensive annual total reward statement can be a vital tool in supporting executives’ understanding of their reward. It shouldn’t be the whole picture though. Think about how you can provide an interactive, immersive experience that prompts proactive engagement and links back to the bigger picture of your company’s growth and their role in that. Total reward benefits from an always on approach to communication.

Many businesses fail to get the most from, and may even lose, their top talent due to poor communication around employee benefits. For example, if your senior execs don’t know how their share plans work, how can they be inspired and motivated to build their value further?

Communicating executive reward in a way your senior employees understand and relate to can present a real challenge, and should be approached in a specialist way due to the nuances and complexities of high-level reward packages.

While a personalised, tailored approach is important for company-wide reward communication, executive reward communication often needs to go even further down the individualised route. 

Read More: How to Effectively Communicate Executive Reward

Specialist Support For Your Reward Communication Strategy

For the power of the reward to be fully realised within an organisation, a reward communication strategy that informs, inspires and engages your teams is essential.

Effective reward communication requires a combination of expert knowledge of HR and internal communications, with an in-depth understanding of marketing best practice.

Internal communications often focus on giving employees essential, need-to-know information (we call this transactional content). However, this isn’t the most effective way to “market” your reward packages to your employees. They are the “consumers” of your total reward offering.

The most successful marketing campaigns appeal to their intended audiences on an emotional level, and the same goes for successful reward communication strategies.

People need to understand how a rewards package relates to them as individuals, to the wider context of their lives, and to their professional and personal goals. You need to create a desire for them to engage, because they clearly see the benefit and the association with their values.

Our approach is to build our reward communication strategies around these three essential communication pillars:

  • Inspire – this is all about the bigger picture, and speaks to why people should want to work for you and stay working for you. This content should be about what you can offer each other, and the emotional connection between your company and people. 
  • Engage – this is where you create two-way conversations with your teams, and really listen to them. Make communication interactive and fun, bringing in quizzes, polls and surveys to share information and get peoples’ thoughts or gauge their understanding.
  • Inform – this is the need-to-know information, but that doesn’t mean reams of words and numbers printed in black and white. Information doesn’t have to be boring – make it easy to understand, bite-sized, and visual.

Our driving force is to create connected, satisfied and engaged teams through effective communication. We take vital, transactional content and transform it into a dynamic reward communication strategy that motivates your people, inspires them to engage, and encourages better performance.

Read More: Why Hire a Specialist Agency for your Reward Communication Strategy?

For your reward strategy to be effective, you must communicate it in a way that engages, informs and delights your employees.

You need to speak their language, appeal to their personal and emotional needs, and ensure all of your people know exactly why your organisation is the best place for them to be. This is what will motivate them to bring their best selves to work and to stay for the right reasons.

By taking a holistic approach to reward communication, and speaking to the individual at all levels of your organisation, you can help your employees see their role as part of the bigger picture. This creates loyalty, drives performance and makes your people feel valued. And, as we know, valued employees help build valuable businesses. 



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Chris Andrew