Today’s The McKinsey Quarterly includes an article “Linking Employee Benefits to Talent Management” which presents the idea that companies need a well thought out strategy for their benefits program. McKinsey sees it as a way for employers to manage costs and be more competitive by attracting and retaining the most talented employees. I had originally discussed strategies for sound wellness programs but I think the ‘5 Pearls’ pertain to the employee benefits programs overall, as well.
McKinsey suggests that employers should treat their employees as ‘customers’ and use the same marketing intelligence gathering techniques as they do on external customers.
When buzz about a potential change in benefits makes its way through employee networks, they often respond with anxiety and consternation. Companies should approach them with the same caution that consumers get, using market research to understand the workforce, segment it, and gauge its responses to potential changes.
When a company tinkers with benefits, it should “brand” the adjustments with themes that research shows are important to employees. Then it should aim those themes at relevant employee segments and actively address the concerns of people who will dislike the changes, while also emphasizing the positive ones that other segments will applaud.
These efforts should take the form of a marketing campaign, similar to what the company would use to launch a new product, that emphasizes aspects of change employees will value.
This makes sense to me but I’d argue that most HR departments, who usually take a leading role in benefits discussions, might not be well-equipped to handle a full-blown marketing campaign on HR benefits. They either would need assistance from their own marketing department, which may be too close to home, or an external marketing agency to shore them up.
For my primary research on the ‘5 Pearls’ blog I spoke to several senior-level HR executives at small and mid-sized companies and they all echoed back that HR departments are not good at marketing new benefits programs to their employee population. They are bogged down with the day-to-day issues facing human resources, like hiring and firing, employee training programs and the like.
Given the limited resources and staff in most HR departments asking them to market their new benefits program is a tall order and one that usually falls to the back of the pile.
I’d like to hear your comments. What is your experience with internal marketing campaigns of either wellness programs or employee benefits programs?