Published on Forbes: Eight Tips For Building An Effective Total Rewards Communications Strategy

May 16, 2017by Gregg ApirianEmployee Engagement


The economy is expected to continue to grow steadily, which means more people are working and fewer people are out of work. This is great news, of course, but it presents a special challenge for employers as they compete to attract increasingly job-savvy employees — either the few who are out of work or those who are already employed at other companies. A growing economy means workers have a lot of options; the only way to win the best talent is to position your company as a great place to work.

For many, a dream job isn’t just about the salary. Millennials have led the way in demanding robust compensation and benefits packages from their employers, and now, the entire workforce is getting on board with the idea that being healthy and enjoying your life is the truest luxury. Today’s employees want personal and professional growth opportunities, career mobility, comfortable and collaborative work environments, and the right balance of compensation and benefits to make them feel secure. The sum of these is represented in a concept called total rewards.

To most employers, this isn’t a new idea, but because of their increasing interest in life beyond just compensation, employees are just beginning to understand what it means to them. You’re probably already offering an attractive program for your employees. The question is, are they seeing their total rewards as something valuable? And are you leveraging your offering to attract the best talent you can?

When employees understand the value of their total rewards (compensation and benefits), we’ve seen that they value themselves more, which means they bring a better version of themselves to the workplace. That’s why top employers have seized the opportunity to carefully communicate the benefits of their total rewards programs through highly targeted messaging, data visualization and modern communication techniques that educate and guide employees to fully understand and utilize all the advantages available to them. These techniques are in place to enable employees to see the full value of the total rewards offered by the company and help employees become their best selves.

Employers Have Difficulty Communicating Total Rewards

It’s no easy task to communicate total rewards in a way that is meaningful to each candidate or employee at a large company. Because of their varied ages and life stages, it’s important to segment your employee audience to deliver targeted messages that help connect with them where they are in life. Another consideration is the technical complexity of medical and life insurance, disability, retirement and other benefits. Because of the density of information, jargon, confusing choices and the multitude of third-party providers it takes to achieve a robust total rewards package, many employees are simply lost when it comes to figuring out how to make their total rewards work for them. When an employer doesn’t make the information simple and digestible, the complexity itself can create a negative perception of the employer and the total rewards program.

Communicating effectively about total rewards creates trust and affinity between the employer and employee. Simplify how employees find, consume and take action on your communications. Use behavioral science to understand employees wants, needs and preferences, and journey maps to understand their mindset and how it aligns to the tools and touchpoints available. Choice architecture can help guide employees through the all the advantages they have at their disposal, and visual storytelling and strategic calls to action to help them navigate the information.

Here are eight tips for communicating with and activating your employees around total rewards:

  1. Understand your employees’ preferences by surveying and interviewing a statistically significant number of them. Unearth how they want to learn more about their rewards and use them. This will require digging deep to understand how they learn (visual, tactile, auditory, all of the above), when they want to learn, and if they expect the employer to support them or if they are ready to support themselves with light guidance from the employer.
  2. Segment your employees into groups so you can create targeted, personalized content. Your communications should feel like they were designed for the segment you’re addressing. For example, sending retirement communications to younger employees should be more about learning how to save for retirement, versus messages to older generations about getting ready to use those retirement benefits.
  3. Map out the employee’s journey from becoming aware of their total rewards through sustained engagement for activating employees to select new benefits and use them regularly. This way, you will meet the employees where they are at in life and know the appropriate touchpoints and content to use to activate them.
  4. As you map out the employee and candidate journeys, consider using choice architecture methodologies to guide employees to understand that they have options. Understand their preferences so you know the best way to help guide them through their choices to be able to select and get the most out of your offerings.
  5. Create a tactical activation plan that is continuous throughout the year, not only during open enrollment. Activation never happens on the first message, and one message for everybody isn’t effective. Use the right mix of channels and vehicles to reach and activate your audience continuously, so you have the greatest chance of getting through to them and inspiring them to take action.
  6. Use design to present information visually, so employees can easily digest and take action. This could mean infographics, bars and graphs and other similar treatments to convey a complex message into an easy-to-understand solution.
  7. Focus your total rewards communications on changing behaviors rather than simply delivering an informational message. These new behaviors will soon become new habits that will drive sustained use and produce higher levels of employee engagement as they learn how to better understand and use their benefits.
  8. Measure all your communications so you can see what’s effective and what isn’t. Use the insights gained throughout your measurement and reporting activities to refine your methods and achieve your desired results.

A competitive package is essential to compete for the top talent in today’s workforce. Compensation and basic benefits are not enough. Modern employees want to enjoy their work and balance it with their personal lives. They want to be challenged, excited and feel like they’re building a secure future. It’s all about empowering your employees to be their best selves at work and otherwise. When they’re operating at optimum levels, so is your company.

Health and wellness programs show employers care. Are your employees taking advantage of your health and wellness programs? If not, it’s time to start thinking about your total rewards communication strategy and Vignette can help.

This article was originally published on

Gregg Apirian

Employee Experience Leader | Marketing, Communications & Technology Expert