Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Communicating Rewards

I haven't had a really good rant on here for a while. Today, I think I am going to change that. The topic is communication of rewards programs. That means benefits of all kinds, compensation, learning and development, work/life programs -- the whole kit and kaboodle. It's all part of rewards, and as a society, our communication of rewards is just plain miserable.

There, I said it. I'll say it again. In the United States today, communication of rewards programs to employees just plain sucks. I didn't say that companies don't try. I didn't say that supervisors don't try. Things have gotten really complicated. Most components of rewards programs today are offered because there is an underlying incentive. Perhaps the incentive is in the Internal Revenue Code. That means that either or both the employer and the employees get a tax break because of this particular rewards element. And, who understands that?

Consider either the communications that you receive or the ones that you send (if you represent the employer side) related to rewards. How do you get the communications of most of these elements? I'm guessing it's one of two way:

  • e-mail
  • a large packet of material filled mostly with required disclosures
Do you read every e-mail that you get including attachments? I don't. When you receive a large packet of materials describing the new health care plan, do you read the whole thing? I don't.

Once upon a time, but during my working lifetime, changes, especially improvements, to rewards programs were communicated differently. How is that? Someone spoke to us. Yes, a real live person with a real live voice spoke to us. Sometimes it was done in groups, sometimes individually. Often, the person who spoke to us could and would answer questions. Yes, the required disclosures were covered, but their was emphasis placed on what was really important and you knew it.

Let me give you an example. When your employer changes its 401(k) plan, there are pages of required disclosures. Most of those disclosures don't mean anything to you or to me. Everyone is worried about getting sued now, so often, most of everyone doesn't want to tell you anything that isn't prescribed by law. You get all the required information, but little relevant information. Therefore, you don't make optimal use of the new program. Why would you? You don't know the full benefit of the change. You don't know who to ask. And, even if you did, that person might be afraid to tell you.

My plea for the near future: let's go back to real communication.

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