Nine Best Practices: Strengthening Employee Alignment Through Total Rewards Communication

April 1, 2021
April 1, 2021

A total rewards communication plan that effectively conveys the many ways in which you reward employees, beyond base salary alone, should be a key component across talent management efforts. Let’s take a look at nine best practices for a successful Total Rewards communication program.

  1. Use Everyday Language

    HR and Compensation specialists often use technical language. It’s a necessary part of the job to use vocabulary such as compa-ratio, range position, or merit increase. Yet most healthcare employees (and their families) have never heard these words. Moreover, managers who communicate a Total Rewards message are most likely not experts in this area either. Simplify the language without losing credibility. Seek the help of communications experts or PR/marketing experts in your organization. Then collaborate with them to develop the message in a way that not only respects the technical nature of the message but also frames the message for the audience’s appropriate level of understanding. Remember the purpose of this communication is to enhance retention and engagement, not to turn nurses and physicians into technical experts on rewards and benefits.

  2. Keep It Simple

    Using everyday language is necessary (above), yet there should be only one main purpose or theme for the communication. All the data, messaging, and collateral should drive this main purpose or theme. Having one central theme for the message makes it easier to communicate and easier to remember for both employees and managers. One central theme also makes it easier to create collateral, craft messages, and gauge the effectiveness of the message.

  3. Drive Transparency: Share More Information Than Employees Need

    Error on the side of more information. Employees will feel more informed and perceive they are seeing the full story. Perceptions of seeing the “unfiltered” story is important because it builds additional credibility behind the message and drives feelings of empowerment for the employee. An empowered and informed employee is usually a more engaged employee. Be prepared to show deeper technical information if requested by the employee. Being ready to show this deeper level information builds both credibility and transparency for the message.

  4. Use Comparisons to Differentiate

    The healthcare labor market becomes tighter by the day as turnover plagues nearly every healthcare organization. Due to social networks and technology, it’s easier than ever for competitors to reach your employees with enticing messages. While we can’t influence what employees choose to read, see, or believe, we can influence the lens through which they see it. Comparing key data from your organization to benchmarks is critical to building that lens through which employees view their current total rewards. When we show this comparison proactively, we are able to control the story and build a more productive and logical lens that employees can bring to how they view their total rewards and how they view other organization’s claims—even if our own organization is below the benchmark in certain areas. That lens should position your organization in a favorable light compared to other organizations. It should align with the key themes of the communication and show how your total compensation is different (in level and type) than others.

  5. Show the “Why” Behind Rewards

    Showing employees why rewards are what they are is critical. This is often the hardest part, and the part that makes more HR professionals nervous. HR knows there are reasons for why salaries are set at certain levels or why the incentive plans are structured in a certain way. Yet outside HR or the executive team, these reasons are often unknown; employees perceive a “black box” around how pay and rewards decisions are made. Show the organizational philosophy and how it influences compensation decisions. It should be clear how the organization is using pay and rewards to turn its philosophy into action. Does the organization want to be known for a certain specialty, and is it therefore willing to pay more for talent in that department? Is the incentive structure set up to reward teamwork instead of individual contribution? Knowing these connections help employees build a more complete understanding of where they fit within the broader total rewards scene.• Talk about credible sources whenever you can. Whether it’s a salary survey or local benchmarks, decisions made from data are generally more credible than open-ended philosophies—and employees recognize and appreciate when the organization is using data and logic to make decisions, not hunches or guesses.

  6. Adjust for Different Audiences

    Although there should be one theme or purpose, the message should be nuanced according to the employee’s level and place in the organization. Clinical, front-line employees should hear and see a different spin on that message than a non-clinical, director-level employee. The nuancing should emphasize specific pieces each employee segment finds valuable and portray those pieces against benchmarks.

  7. Remember the Spouse/Family

    The most important conversations about pay and career direction happen around the dinner table—where HR departments, managers, and colleagues are not present. It is within these private venues where the Total Rewards message undergoes the ultimate test of effectiveness. Craft materials and messages that are meant to be shared around that dinner table with family members. The employee should be able to articulate the messages three most impactful elements that are easy to understand for someone who isn’t in the organization every day. We should assume the message is being taken home and should therefore be careful of any potentially negativity that could result from data and language in the message.

  8. Communicate Personally

    Total rewards communication must occur on a personal level to maximize the effects. In-person communication or tailored online content signals more weight and value toward the employee; it shows the organization takes this message seriously. Would an employee’s performance review be delivered via email only? Probably not. In the same manner, do not leave total rewards communication to passive channels. Leveraging managers in this communication, when supplementing with an online portal, can drive perceptions of value for employees as it puts the manager in a better position to gain more trust and commitment from their team.

  9. Maintain a Centralized Portal for Continuous Access

    Further tailoring the message with each employees’ numbers and statistics cannot be done manually—it takes a centralized portal built for such a purpose, with tailoring options built in. This portal should be easily accessible with consumable information for each employee. Many organizations try a homegrown approach; from Sharepoint to Dropbox, many methods have tried to deliver a tailored total rewards view for the employee. These efforts usually end in convoluted processes wrapped around a semi-tailored view that doesn’t satisfy employees. A homegrown or manual approach also requires HR to become web designers and cloud-storage specialists. Using a purpose-built portal for total rewards communication will keep HR focused on the talent strategy, allow for tailored information for every employee, and help reinforce the central messages and theme you’ve chosen.