Every organization is unique. If you want to understand the best ways to communicate with your employees, you need to ask them. That said, your employees don’t know what they don’t know.

If they’ve never had the opportunity to view a short, entertaining, information-packed pension video, they may not consider video a preferred communication channel for their pension benefits.

Here are four communication trends worth testing on your employees, to see if they help improve engagement and understanding.

Fewer words, more pictures
One of the big challenges we face today is that many plans are so complex that they seem impossible to communicate. No matter how good you may be with words, there are times when an adequate explanation simply can’t be offered without visual help. In some cases, one clear, compelling visual image can replace the text altogether.

Remember, too, that a large portion of your employee population is made up of visual learners, who will absorb information faster—and retain it longer—if they can see it rather than read about it.

Pictures are also powerful engagement tools. They grab our attention better than any paragraph of copy, and can convert an otherwise boring experience into a more enjoyable one (after all, who really wants to read about pensions and benefits?).

Read: One thing you can do now to communicate better

Data-driven content
Pension and benefit plans offer a goldmine of personal data. Communication experts have made huge advances in harnessing the power of this information to create data-driven content that’s personalized to plan members.

Today’s technology allows us to go way beyond adding a few variable fields to an annual statement. We can now marry personalized text with compelling personalized graphics, including charts and images. Leading-edge plan sponsors are now taking this even further, by using demographic data to target specific needs and learning styles—including varying the look, tone, messaging, content—and even the font size and images, so it best suits different age cohorts and learning styles.

In a world of information overload and limited attention spans, there is a small window of opportunity to connect with employees. By stripping out what’s not relevant, personalized communication lets you simplify, streamline, and cut to the chase.

Read: Communicate by cohort to grab members’ attention

Behaviour-based strategies
Popularized by the 2008 book Nudge by Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein, the field of behavioural economics has grown dramatically in recent years. Behavioural insight teams are cropping up everywhere. The Ontario government’s 2015 Budget announced that a new Centre of Excellence for Evidence-Based Decision Making will be introduced and supported by a new Behavioural Insights Unit (BIU).

Likewise, plan sponsors have started deploying insights from the behavioural sciences to achieve better outcomes for their plan members. A behaviour-centred strategy can help you leverage human tendencies to encourage healthier, smarter and more cost-effective pension and benefits plan choices. Shifting the default on plan membership to “opt out” rather than “opt in” is one obvious way in which plan sponsors can take advantage of our natural bias toward the status quo and improve results. Similarly, a communication strategy built around choice architecture can use the same media and tools that form the core of your current program, but improve choices and outcomes through the words and order used to present members with plan options.

Read: How to improve DC communications

Mobile-friendly tools and information
According to digital measurement firm comScore, Canadians are now spending more time online with their mobile devices than with their computers—and this trend is expected to continue. Mobile-friendly communication tools are a must for plan sponsors that want to connect with plan members—especially those in the 25-to-34 demographic—who average around 110 hours a month online.

The shift to mobile is having a huge impact on how employee communication is written, designed and delivered. It’s also one of the reasons why video is playing a bigger role than ever in employee communication strategies. YouTube has become one of the most popular information sources on the planet. When we want to find out about something, there’s pretty good chance we’ll turn to YouTube and half of all YouTube views are on mobile devices.

These four trends will likely continue to dominate communication strategies for the foreseeable future. That doesn’t mean we can, or should, abandon traditional modes of communication. Most plans still include a segment of the population whose preferred communication channels were established many years ago and aren’t about to change. The key, at least in the short term, is to find ways to make small changes that incorporate these trends—and then ask your employees what they think.

Susan Deller is a principal with Eckler Ltd. and specializes in benefits communications consulting.

These are the views of the author and not necessarily those of Benefits Canada.

Copyright © 2017 Transcontinental Media G.P. Originally published on benefitscanada.com

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