Utilising social media in benefits communication
It’s taken a while to get here, but HR and reward and benefits professionals seem to have finally grasped the importance of communicating their benefits programmes effectively to employees.
But, just as some are getting to grips with distributing posters, running competitions, and sending information direct or by e-mail to employees, the world of benefits communications has stepped up a gear once again to incorporate social media.
Love it or hate it, social media such as Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and blogs are pervading not only our private lives but our work lives too. While countless businesses use these media for marketing and research, only a handful have managed to effectively use social media in the workplace to harness, advocate and generate discussion around employee benefits with the employees themselves.
With 60% of adults in the UK accessing the internet every day or almost every day, whether it’s at home, at work or on their mobile, it seems crazy not to use the medium to its full potential when it comes to communicating your employee benefits package to staff.
Benefits communication is all about trying to reach the hard-to-reach and engage the unengaged. One of the great things about using Facebook or Twitter is that it aligns your discounts programme with your employees’ lifestyle outside of work. It creates an immediate connection between their employee benefits and their home life. Their employee discounts programme should fit into their existing lifestyle and habits, not the other way around. You want them to use the discounts on products and services to save them money on what they’re already buying.
What’s more, providing convenient, easy access to the platform through a Facebook page or a link on Twitter cuts out the potential barrier of ‘I don’t know what the URL is’ or worse, if the link is only on your intranet then you are counting on your employees to remember what the URL is rather than providing a link wherever possible so they don’t need to remember the URL. We are, after all, increasingly becoming a one-click, on-demand society.
HOW TO GO ABOUT IT
Inchcape Retail UK recently launched a Facebook page to communicate its discounts programme to employees. The HR team got the ball rolling by running an employee benefit survey which was completed by nearly half of the workforce, and returned a positive response to the suggestion of communicating through Facebook.
“Facebook offers a great opportunity to communicate some great benefits to our colleagues in a way that helps increase and maintain employee engagement,” says Inchcape’s HR Administrator, Rachel Begg. “The offers and savings available through the scheme generate a good deal of excitement among our employees so it’s great to have a forum through which they can share their money-saving experiences and share tips and recommendations.”
Set up as a ‘private’ profile on the social networking site, employees receive regular updates on new retailers, competitions, most popular offers, weekly ‘top ten’ retailers and offers, and peer-to-peer discussions and recommendations for savings available through the Inchcape Employee Advantages Scheme, provided by Asperity Employee Benefits.
To join the Facebook profile, employees must request friendship and then be accepted by Inchcape’s Colleague Support Services team, who verify that the requester is an Inchcape UK employee. The profile includes a helpful information section, which explains how the scheme works and how to register, along with clear details on how to contact the scheme’s Helpdesk and Inchcape’s Colleague Support Services team.
In the 3 months since launch the page had gained nearly 140 friends without any promotion at all but through word of mouth. Feedback on the Facebook profile has been hugely positive and there has been a number of money-saving ‘good news’ stories posted by employees.
Taking a slightly different approach, IBM has developed an employee blog for a similar purpose. The IBM Rewards Community blog launched in July 09, hosting video interviews and written testimonials where IBM staff share their savings success stories and tips for their colleagues. IBM staff win a £50 prize for each of their stories that are published and this area is now vibrant and updated regularly. There are now dozens of stories on the blog where IBM employees tell each other about savings tips and ideas and the good news message that this creates has delivered measurable increases in site usage.
As IBM’s environmental strategy restricts the use of printed communications, increasingly innovative techniques must be employed to reach an email-saturated audience.
October 09 saw the launch of the IBM Rewards Twitter group – the first employee benefits site in the UK to use a daily tweet on Twitter to publicise new updates on benefits. Twitter was already in use by technology projects in IBM but this development was the first time an HR project had used the tool. Getting IBM’s non-technical support, sales and customer service staff to use the group supported IBM’s corporate goals of making new technologies core to the business, outside of the technical centres.
The Twitter group has been a huge success with thousands of employees using it for updates and 345 people becoming fully-fledged followers. The group has developed since launch to facilitate two-way dialogue between the IBM Rewards team and users, allowing discussions to be had with some of the most active IBM Rewards users. And the success of such an initiative is evident in the statistics - this group logs in 58% more frequently than the average user and achieves employee savings of 2.5 times the average (source: Asperity’s RewardManager™ system).
WHAT RESOURCES WILL YOU NEED?
You will need to dedicate some, not a lot, of your time and human resource to this kind of project. But your employee benefits provider is there to take the majority of the burden off your hands. They will have proven experience in helping organisations utilise the right methods for your workforce.