Are we too obsessed with digital employee communications?

online-portalsWhen I first started working in employee benefits and rewards everything was different. Information was sent out on paper and because it was such a manual process there was only ever an annual enrolment period. But today we live in a different world.

Changes in the industry, opportunities to incorporate technology and a changing understanding of employee motivation are now all part of the benefits and reward landscape, and HR professionals have had to adapt. The pace of change seems to be increasing, and whilst I personally find this very exciting, it means that organisations need to ensure that they have the right skills and knowledge within the HR team.


One of the biggest changes is the realisation that employee communications are critical to the success of HR programmes, HR professionals can no longer adopt a ‘build it and they will come’ attitude. Instead they’ve had to learn communication-planning skills from their colleagues in marketing.

And marketing seems to be more than just a little obsessed with digital communications at the moment: social media, email, videos and podcasting are all terms that are becoming increasingly common place. And this trend is transferring from Marketing to HR teams.


But there’s a danger

In the rush to innovate, and perhaps to be seen as a forward thinking company, are we in danger of losing the reason why we have employee benefit schemes and reward programmes? What about the employees themselves? Are they bought into digital this and digital that communications?

cloud communicationsWe know that regular communications encourage employees to engage more with rewards and benefits, but getting the right communication channel is key. Whilst the younger generations, particularly Generation Z and Millennials, are happy to receive communications by text message and apps, that isn’t always the case with the older generations, such as Baby Boomers and Generation X. They may use social media but are more open to personal communications methods such as direct mail and presentations.

Get your communication method wrong and you will disengage staff rather than engage them. We need to be careful that we don’t just follow the latest trend for the sake of it, we need to ensure that it is right for our employees.


The benefits of digital technology

Where digital technology has really advanced the benefits and reward industry is in the implementation and delivery of those programmes. Thanks to digital technology organisations can operate year-round enrolment periods, employees can alter their benefits to suit their changing circumstances and organisations can update their rewards without having to go through a costly catalogue re-print.

Digital and online platforms can now help HR professionals segment their workforce by key demographics that allow employers to personalise the communication of the benefits they offer. The communications to employees can also be personalised with their name, start date and anniversaries. Plus employees can use online platforms to ‘self-serve’, in other words they can go into their account at a time convenient to themselves and manage their own benefits and rewards, taking some of the administrative pressure of busy HR professionals.

As a result employees are more motivated and engaged, costs are lower and organisations can be more creative and innovative with their HR programmes.


There are numerous challenges around effective digital employee benefit and reward platforms. Yes, they need to support the smooth running of the business and achieve set goals but we mustn’t lose sight of our employees and what they want. Failure to consider how they want to receive communications will result in demotivated and disengaged staff and poor business performance.


John Sylvester

John is responsible for the motivation division of p&mm ltd and a Director on the board of the IPM. Specialising in developing, implementing and directing many large scale staff motivation, recognition and employee communications programmes.
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