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Benefits change management strategy: 4 steps to keep employees informed and engaged

Access change management strategies for communicating benefits information to boost employee engagement (and retention) successfully.

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9/22/22
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The key to positive change management strategies that engage employees

You work hard to provide the best employee benefits, and that means adapting to ever-changing employee demands. During the pandemic, you’ve probably experienced some unexpected changes. In fact, companies of all sizes have undergone multiple changes in the span of just a few years. And it’s not about to stop.

According to Gartner, 75% of companies expect continuing evolutions and organizational changes over the next three years. And in another survey, Gartner reveals that only a third of change initiatives succeed.

Change can be hard for employers and employees - especially when it comes to benefits. A common difficulty for HR leaders is that employees find benefits communication confusing. As a result, changing employee benefits can lead to complaints, apathy, or even pushback. If your rollout fails, so does the investment and worse yet - engagement leaving employees frustrated, confused, and anxious. Negative reactions can affect their job performance and job satisfaction and can chip away at their faith in the organization as a whole. In an era of tight staffing levels, losing even one valued employee can be costly.

What’s the key to successful change management and engaging employees?  Effective communication.

Below is a four-step strategy to communicate new benefits information in a way that ensures a smooth transition and better employee engagement.

1. Be thoughtful when crafting the change management messaging.

Change can be scary for employees, no matter how long they’ve been with an organization. Your choice of words can evoke trust or fear. When it comes to preparing your communication, choose words thoughtfully. 

Consider these tactics to craft the right message.

  • Focus on the positive impact of the benefits for the employees. Everyone will want to know “what’s in it for me?” Don’t bury the lead.
  • Explain changes simply and clearly, avoiding details and unfamiliar jargon. Save the fine print for later.
  • Be upfront about any potential downsides. It’s better to be honest and allow employees to come to terms with the change than surprise them later with the bad news. Employees may wonder what else you’re hiding, once again eroding trust in the organization and alienating valued team members.

Communicating benefits changes is like making a first impression. You want employees to like them. You want them to walk away feeling confident, interested, and engaged. If their first impression is off-putting in any way, it’ll be more challenging to get them on board later.

2. Use an omnichannel approach to announce changes.

Introducing employee benefits information involves more than just C-suite executives. The trickle-down approach is outdated and can result in a gap of understanding between leaders and entry-level employees. Team members at every level of your organization want to, and deserve to, understand the changes and why they’re happening. It’s important to meet employees where they are to support them and help them navigate change successfully.

Here are some tips to help achieve positive change management and spread the word.

  • Offer direct lines of communication. Empower leadership with information so that they can discuss changes openly with their departments or team direct. Similarly, arm managers with details so that they can share changes with their teams in group syncs or in one on ones with direct reports. Using a personal setting with people they know can help reduce anxiety and build trust.
  • Consider the medium to drive engagement. Some people prefer flyers or mailers. Others are audio-visual consumers and may like webinars or podcasts. The options go on with FAQs, brochures, and infographics. Create assets that employees like so that the message is received.
  • Announce the changes across channels. It’s important to connect with employees through the channels they use. Do they prefer Slack? Create a group dedicated to benefits changes. Or maybe it’s Microsoft Teams, Facebook, email, or a printed mailing to their homes. You might need to hit all of the above to reach a diverse workforce. The channel matters as much as the message and can help ensure employees pay attention to and digest the information.
  • Repeat the message more than once and in various ways. Communicating change is not a one-and-done sort of situation. It takes multiple follow-ups to communicate effectively, keep employees engaged, and get the message heard loud and clear. Mix and match the asset type and channel to syndicate the message and ensure it’s received.

3. Establish a holistic approach to gather employee feedback.

Effective communicators are also good listeners. Provide employees more of a stake in the process by sourcing feedback and listening to their concerns. Don’t just wait for employees to come to you, though. Actively seek feedback to create more ownership in the process.

Going back to leadership and management meetings with teams or direct reports, ask people for direct input on what they like and don’t like about the changes.  Consider establishing a company-wide survey that asks employees what they find most and least useful about the new benefits information. If your workforce doesn’t like surveys, consider offering an anonymous portal where employees can post comments or concerns and ask questions without fear of repercussions.

Keep the communication lines open to let employees know you support them and value their feedback. For employees, addressing concerns is a clear way to show them that their opinion is both valued and appreciated.

4. Build a response plan to address feedback and keep employees engaged. 

Effective change management communication strategies hinge on an effective process for responding to employee input. If not handled correctly, sweeping benefits changes can lead to uncertainty and insecurity. Your responses to comments and questions can help ease employee anxiety and lead to higher retention.

It's important to address concerns and listen to feedback to inform a successful response plan. Here are some ways to do that:

  • Consolidate feedback. Designing avenues to get input is one thing. It’s equally as important to document and take note. Offer a means of consolidating information gathered from those discussions and the like. 
  • Use feedback to inform changes. In other words, call on that information gathered from employees to inform decisions on what to do or not to do and determine what is or isn’t working.
  • Enact meaningful change. Looking at the feedback data, identify possible patterns to determine what matters and why a change would be meaningful for your workforce. 
  • Establish a communication and feedback loop. Continually communicate and gather feedback.  Set monthly or quarterly goals to listen, learn, and evaluate programs in place. And when a change is made, simply go back to step one to share the news and the subsequent steps that follow. 

When you value employee feedback, employees feel valued. Your effective communication strategies will reward you with employees who stay with you and are engaged and ready to adapt to whatever changes and challenges lie ahead.

Deliver flexible benefit programs that support employees with Forma

The best way to alleviate employee anxieties is to provide meaningful benefits that support employees' needs. Forma provides the flexibility to customize and design a benefits program to meet diverse and evolving employee needs. Using modern tooling like Forma, employees can easily access and use benefits programs with three ways to pay for benefits via the Forma Store, Forma Card, and claims. 

Better yet, Forma offers 24-hour support which is advantageous to employees looking for information and HR leaders who save time answering questions. HR leaders can monitor use and engagement to determine what is and isn’t working. Then, when you’re ready to implement new changes, you can leverage data from the platform and employee feedback to inform future program design decisions. 

Schedule a consultation with Forma to learn how to increase employee retention and engagement during times of change.

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