What do your employees want to know or accomplish? Their answers to a simple interest survey can be the catalyst for effective wellness communication.
Wellness communication is often an afterthought, viewed by organizations as a necessary byproduct of their wellness plans. Most companies try to figure out ways to elicit employee participation only after they design or adopt their wellness programs.
Communication doesn’t lead the charge; it just goes along for the ride. Messages to employees—emails, brochures, company newsletter articles, etc.—are viewed as individual projects instead of a process. But the most effective wellness communication isn’t served late, whipped together in a hodgepodge of messages, voices and looks. It’s developed early in the process, integrated into other core decisions about the program’s features and benefits. The result of simple planning can be a communication structure that’s forward-thinking and energizing, a total communications experience that inspires, informs, shares and celebrates the potential of healthy living.
Discover What Employees Want — and How They Want It
Well-intentioned HR professionals nationwide make key decisions based on best guesses and first reactions. But effective workplace communication is too central to leave up to your gut. Reaching employees with effective, timely, relevant messages is your mission. You are in the driver’s seat for creating and implementing your organization’s wellness program, but your employees are the destination. You must aim communication in their direction. Let them be your beacon. If you don’t dwell on your audience’s needs and goals, you will embark on a journey to nowhere.
Information can serve as your map: What do they want to know? What do they really want to accomplish? How would they prefer to receive (or not receive) the messages you’re sending?
A time-tested piece of advice in communication is “Know your audience.” That might seem obvious — part of your job is understanding employees’ strengths and motivations — but sometimes things that are apparent aren’t practiced. “Asking questions about who you’re talking to, writing for, or presenting to is the first place to start, and it’s generally where most communications strategies fail,” says Bill Dickmeyer of Madison Human Resources Consulting LLC in Madison, WI.
Find out what your employees are thinking and what captures their attention. It will help you collect information on overall characteristics such as interest (often missed in this stage), HRA data, gender, culture and education. This information can fuel your communication plan, help you establish a philosophy and mission for your program and enable you to set expectations and create demand.
Overcome Common Wellness Communication Issues
Also, early in the wellness program development process, discuss ways that your organization will prevail over these 4 basic reasons for poor wellness communication:
- Fear. Health and benefits are personal issues. “Fear makes us feel the need to protect our own interests, and it often stifles communication,” says Sue Dyer, president of the consulting firm OrgMetrics. To alleviate fear, develop trust. “Remind employees that your workplace communication is a two-way street and that one of your goals is to simply provide information that helps them make informed decisions.”
- Confusion. Many employees turn a deaf ear to anything involving topics they don’t understand fully. So when they see an email about important changes to the company’s health care plan, for example, their tendency is to simply tune out or delay reading it until they absolutely must. Combat this by concentrating on clarity. Provide concise, visually appealing messages employees can understand the first time.
- Loss of momentum. “Frustration is caused when employees go forward but keep getting pulled back” because of frequent changes to existing programs, Dyer says. So spend ample time in the planning phase of your health promotion and wellness initiatives, and respond quickly to feedback.
- Infrequency. You don’t want to bombard employees with daily messages, but it’s important to send regular communication.
To battle those common challenges, employ these key elements of effective wellness communication:
- A holistic approach that encourages small changes that lead to bigger changes
- A focus on community support, events, and programs
- A blend of digital and print communications, which are most powerful when they work in concert
- A continual way for employees to provide input and feedback to communicate with one another
- A brand, logo, slogan, and visual identity to give wellness programs personality
- An injection of humor and entertainment to make it fun
- Prepare an automatic or personalized email to survey respondents, expressing appreciation for their feedback. In the message, let them know how you’ll plan to use their input and give them an easy way to provide additional feedback at their convenience.
- Plan a way to report back to employees (meeting, posted results online, other media channels), showing that your organization is accountable and responsive.
Sign up for Hope Health’s free Trendsetters Monthly Brief, a quick-to-read brief for wellness committees filled with cutting-edge communication trends, strategies, and tactics to maximize employee engagement — delivered to your email.
Hope Health’s Website at www.HopeHealth.com includes many free tools, reports and articles you and your Wellness Committee can download and use.