Ever more increasing numbers of employees are using social-networking, but Web 2.0 tools are just breaking through the corporate approval process in many organizations. Companies should be using such technologies to communicate about total rewards with workers.
Is your organization effectively communicating the value of employee rewards? Are your senior leaders aware of employee perceptions of company rewards? Does your brand have a winning reputation for its overall rewards program? Are there low-cost, high-value opportunities to make reward-program components easier to understand and use?
Nearly two-thirds of Towers Perrin's 2008 Global Workforce Survey respondents rated their organizations as "fair" or "poor" in communicating clear pay and benefit information. Yet research clearly indicates that non-monetary rewards do matter, and communication about them is the missing link to retaining employee loyalty as the economy recovers.
Unfortunately, many organizations are still relying on annual summary plan descriptions, messages posted on the company Web site, and the occasional, impersonal e-mail. In failing to embrace dynamic, new two-way Web technologies, businesses are passing up opportunities to create healthier relationships with employees through compelling, personalized information that positively affects engagement.
Renewed Interest in Communicating Total Rewards Fueled by Potential Talent Wars
Towers Perrin's insights from a total-rewards survey of HR and business executives across mid-size and large U.S. companies confirm that organizations have awakened to the importance of having skilled staff at all levels engaged and delivering results.
Roughly three-quarters of these executives believe 2010 will bring a full economic turnaround. This perception is reinforced by The Conference Board's third quarter 2009 CEO Confidence Study showing that 68 percent of surveyed CEOs believe economic conditions have improved, compared to six months ago, with a majority expecting continued improvement.
Data and experience consistently show that relational rewards have a direct impact on the retention and engagement of talent. The risk of ignoring the benefits of internal social networking for creating meaningful, personalized communication with employees is clear -- and economic recovery will be the fulcrum that tips the talent-retention balance.
Increasing the Perceived Value of Rewards
Employees need to understand their deal, and that their company remains committed to them in areas beyond their paycheck, i.e., the work environment and other fundamental concerns that employees no longer consider "fringe benefits."
While second quarter results from Towers Perrin's Workplace Watch quarterly employee-opinion survey suggest that employees understand their organization's goals and are handling the stresses of the economic environment fairly well, the low- to no-cost factors that account for this are notable:
* Increased communication from leadership that's clear about immediate goals and priorities; and
* Offering employees greater flexibility in deciding the hours and locations in which they work.
So the big question is: As the focus on efficiency and cost management gives way to a more complex array of growth priorities, will increased communication and employees' sense of connection be lost in the shuffle?
While companies' perception of "talent" has become more expansive, many have also demonstrated a near-sighted reluctance to move beyond familiar terrain into leading-edge areas. However, to improve and maintain the employee relationship, organizations will need to:
* Research what each employee segment values;
* Assess how the current reward program affects behaviors and attitudes;
* Understand how the work experience drives employee appreciation of rewards; and
* Develop effective communications that increase employees' comfort with work/life balance, benefit protection and financial security.
Communicating Total Rewards -- One Employee at a Time
An August 2009 Nielsen Online study shows that 17 percent of time spent online is at social-networking sites (up 11 percent from the previous year) -- and nearly half of all online workers use Facebook at the office. Facebook use grew by roughly 200 percent last year, and Twitter by multiples of that; there is no doubt that your employees are communicating virtually and globally. What are they saying about their work experience?
Through social-networking sites and other Web technologies -- and perhaps in part because employers have been pushing them to take more responsibility -- employees now have the technology at hand to instantly connect with the best jobs.
Employers with less-than-healthy employee relationships are likely to be caught flat-footed by the speed with which employees use personal networks to research company rewards and leap for a deal perceived as better.
One of the most exciting developments in HR service delivery is the growing use of next-generation Web tools such as social-networking sites, forums, podcasts and blogs. These tools don't just speed and expand the flow of information; they substantially increase opportunities for personalized messaging, and can be used to support HR program delivery as well as to step up employee engagement levels.
Web 2.0 tools enable organizations to:
* Foster greater internal information sharing and teamwork;
* Enable knowledge management and collaboration within teams and departments, as well as between departments and functions; and
* Increase individual and group productivity, using fewer resources, while raising the level of employee engagement.
As for HR, leading organizations are already applying these tools for HR communications, knowledge management, training and career development.
Dynamic Web tools offer an interactive, personal and immediate means of communicating with and engaging employees, forming a direct channel between leadership and employees, and helping to provide a collaborative context for business decisions.
What Other Organizations are Doing
According to Towers Perrin's 2009 HR Service Delivery Survey, new Web technologies have quickly carved out a niche in the mainstream -- both in and out of the workplace. More than 85 percent of respondents were familiar with "Web 2.0," and roughly half used social-networking sites, online forums, podcasts or blogs.
While social networking has not yet broken through the corporate barrier in large numbers, 43 percent are considering internal-networking sites, which suggests much higher implementation percentages and that the use of Web 2.0 tools will continue to grow.
Organizations that maintain control of their message will be those that meet employees where they already are. Implementing social-networking tools can help your company to:
* Ease the way for employees managing their career, health and personal wealth;
* Communicate in a personal and meaningful way about benefits, pay and bonuses; and
* Achieve a better relationship with employees.
Martha B. Terry is the global practice leader for communication consulting at Towers Perrin. She brings more than 30 years of experience in corporate communication, public relations and communication consulting to her work with Fortune 1000 organization. She is the author of a number of research studies on employee engagement and communication, and a two-time winner of the International Association of Business Communicators (IABC) Award of Merit for her work in the field.