Communicating In a Demographic-Rich Workplace

April 8, 2024

Dawn Wilkins

Hands around paper people cut outs

As people historically continue to work past traditional retirement, the age span of a workforce can be over 45 years and encompass five generations! Since each generation has been influenced by their upbringing, events, and trends over their lifetime, they tend to gravitate towards and feel comfortable with specific forms of communication. This diversity can pose challenges for employers when trying to effectively engage with employees. Selecting the right ways to communicate is essential. Employers want to ensure employees don’t miss important and timely information by providing educational opportunities and open enrollment benefits details. The right communication strategy helps ensure that employees are engaged and feel empowered and can help minimize workplace disruption. Also, the right communication selection can help ensure the company doesn’t waste valuable time or money.  

This topic was recently top-of-mind for my friend, and the employees at their company received a 32-page full-color printed benefits guide in the mail. To note, the employees are all tech-savvy and have access to at least one computer and numerous mobile devices. The benefits guide even directs employees to access a computer to see their payroll deductions and enroll online. This fueled many questions in my mind. Does the guide really need to be printed and mailed to their home? Isn’t there a better way to engage employees since they have access to a computer, like a benefits microsite or enrollment platform? How much money would be saved if the guide wasn’t printed and then mailed? Could that money be reallocated for richer plan benefits by doing something nice for the employees or even reinvesting in the company? 

To help ensure that communications are reaching and resonating with employees and that time and money are well spent, employers should consider developing a well-thought-out strategic communications plan each year. This should start with a thorough assessment. Part of the assessment should include determining the company’s current demographics and adjusting communications based on these and other valuable findings. It is important to start planning months in advance. Let’s walk through some of our processes around assessing demographics, specifically, and communication alignment.

What are the categories of demographics?

First, an overview of the five “categories” of employees in today’s workplace. The chart below identifies their approximate age range and percentage in today’s workplace.

To help build your strategy, start with an assessment. Ask yourself questions pertaining to your demographics and other important factors. Here are some examples:

  • How many of my employees fall into each category of demographics? Are they my target audience for this communication? 
  • What is my male vs. female ratio?
  • What percentage of my employees are remote?
  • What data do I have from past communications? What feedback have I heard from current employees or those during an exit interview? 

Next, answer questions to help you determine your communication options, channel selection, and frequency: 

  • Are there other communications being distributed that may compete with my communications?
  • What communication options do I have? (microsite, emails, text messaging, meetings coming up, intranet, social media outlets, videos, guides, face-to-face opportunities, etc.)
  • How much of my workforce has access to a computer, smartphone, or tablet?
  • What resources do I have access to that will help disseminate the communications?
  • What budget do I have, and how can I put it to the best use?
  • What is my timeframe?  

Once you have completed an assessment, you want to use the findings to help build your strategy and ensure your communications touch each target group. The grid below provides general communications guidance and can help you determine the best communication based on your workforce demographics. 

Now you can answer questions to help you determine the content of your communications and the types of communication you will want to create: 

  • How can I entice the recipient to read the communication(s)? What will capture their attention?
  • What is the primary objective or message I want to get across in the communication?
  • What should I highlight or call out to help minimize confusion?
  • How can I be clear, concise, and to the point and be sure that if someone “skims”, they don’t miss anything?
  • How can I provide additional information for those who want the details?
  • Are there change management communication needs?
  • How can I reiterate the company brand? Would a tagline be impactful? What graphics or images will be engaging?
  • What is my call-to-action and how can I ensure it is not missed? 

Be sure you identify several touchpoints because employees may overlook messages amid so many competing priorities. It’s not enough for employees to receive initial communications about critical dates, deadlines, and important matters; they need to be reminded consistently. You may want to consider the 5-touchpoint rule: recipients should read, see, and hear the information at least five times for the information to resonate and help ensure they understand, act, and are clear on any steps to be taken.

hand pointing to 5 stars

Make a plan, create, and execute your communications. Make sure your communications are provided in easily “digestible” chunks. There is scientific evidence that our attention spans are getting shorter, and many people scan content because they have competing priorities. 

3 darts hitting bullseye on target

What might your communications campaign look like?

To outline an example of a plan for an open enrollment communication campaign targeting a mix of Baby Boomers, Gen X, and Millennials, and a population that is a balance of males and females, we might plan the following to help ensure we have: 

  • Face-to-face communications
    • Meeting socialization – Start communicating 1-2 months ahead of time during all team meetings and manager 1:1s.
    • Meetings – Deploy open enrollment meetings during your Open Enrollment period. 
  • Digital communications 
    • Email campaign – 5-touchpoint email campaign that starts a month before open enrollment and spans through OE, alerting employees of key dates to remember.
    • Benefits Microsite – House the benefits information for employees during Open Enrollment with instructions on how to enroll and links to the enrollment platform. Add links to plan documents for those who want to get into the details and need more information. Add a few short videos explaining areas of potential confusion to help increase engagement. 

      The microsite will also serve your needs outside of OE. Employees can reference it throughout the year as a reminder of plan benefits and to access other information like wellness resources and education.
  • Intranet posts – Your intranet is another great way to promote the open enrollment timeframe, link to the microsite, post a frequently asked questions document, and other important information like Open Enrollment meetings, office hours, or where employees should go if they have questions.  
  • Posters – When an employer has a workforce that is in the office a few days a week, hanging posters in the common areas is an engaging way to capture the audience with important information and get them talking. Adding QR codes can help provide them with more information immediately. 

    Also, posters are a great way to drive employees to the microsite outside of Open Enrollment and take advantage of Health and Wellness tools and resources. 

In summary, a yearly strategic communication plan is essential. It should start far in advance to help provide you enough time to select the right communications and channels and have the time you need for planning and development while following the five-touchpoint rule, considering your current demographics. Optimal communication will help empower your employees, ensure they have important information, and act when needed. It will also help you use your time and resources efficiently and effectively. 

At World Insurance, we work closely with our clients to develop a well-thought-out communications strategy, working through our four-step communications planning process. Reach out to learn more. 

About the Author

 Dawn Wilkins
Director of Employee Communications & Member Engagement, Employee Benefits

Dawn spearheads the development and implementation of robust communication strategies aimed at enhancing employee wellness, mitigating benefit costs, and empowering employees with the necessary knowledge to make informed benefit selections.

With over 25 years of experience, she has been at the forefront of innovating communication tools and resources tailored to assist employers in educating their employees, enhancing user experiences, and fostering increased employee engagement, ultimately resulting in optimized benefits program outcomes.