Constructing the right messages for staff to get financial picture

Building firm Rok is using DVDs and podcasts to effectively communicate its flexible benefits scheme to its diverse workforce

It is perhaps a natural, but dangerous, assumption to make that any new development in benefits within an organisation will be accepted warmly by all employees. To ensure that any changes are properly understood and the value of the benefits provided is fully appreciated, effective communication is necessary.

When we introduced a flexible benefits scheme at Rok we needed to know whether our people wanted or were ready to embrace the sizeable change that it would bring. Clearly a business case was firstly required. We wanted to make sure that, from a management perspective, we had consensus on what we wanted the project to achieve. Flex was almost seen as a panacea for all ills, and it seemed clear that without a realistic number of agreed objectives, the project could collapse under the weight of so many different expectations.

At Rok, people said they liked the current benefits offering, but underestimated its financial value so effective communication was essential.

However, for a business in a sector such as ours, with a huge diversity in geographical spread, occupational groups and access to technology, communication is our biggest challenge. We felt that for many of our people, the concept of a total reward statement would be revolutionary, let alone the concept of flexibility. As such, the biggest lesson we learned early on was that we needed to phase the launch.

With a big project like this it pays to think ahead, so knowing we would need external help when it came to the implementation and administration phased we chose to involve external providers at an early stage.

Going ‘big bang’ straight away was never really viable at Rok – we needed to communicate the conceptual changes at a pace which our people could absorb. As such, the decision was made to launch total reward statements in December 2007 and full flex in April 2008. Breaking up the launch made our communication challenge a good degree less intimidating for employees. Yet there was huge debate on the best strategy to use, because most of our people work on-site, and it’s a vast logistical exercise to get face-to-face with all of them.

DVDs and podcasts

We need to use technology in a way that meant we could engage with every person at a time which would suit them and not pull them away from their site for too long. To this end, we are putting most of our efforts into video, both DVD and podcasts, which explain the new concepts and the technical challenges of accessing total reward statements and eventually making informed choices about flexing benefits.

Of course, making the message visual doesn’t automatically mean that it will be engaging. Our strategy is to focus on real people in Rok and look for them to sell the message. This is an approach that has worked very well for us in most of our communication materials and messages. For example, in our annual report, you won’t see pictures of buildings – it’s all about Rok people.

Richard Sadler is reward leader at Rok


Best practice tips

  • Don’t be afraid to use technology to help communicate benefit changes, but if you do, make sure you use technology that suits the specific make-up of your workforce.

  • Break up the process of a new benefits launch, such as a flex launch. This will make the communication process far easier for employees to take on board.

  • Don’t underestimate the challenge of communicating a new scheme to employees, especially across different work locations.

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