Case study: Boosting engagement with personalized total rewards statements

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By Sharon Stocker | 30 April 2018

The challenge

A large Milliman client with approximately 30,000 employees operates under a number of distinct brands. While 700 employees work at corporate headquarters, the majority work in the field, spread across the country in numerous regional centers.

The organization is strongly committed to a set of core values and a culture of engagement, yet the multiple brands and scattered geography were making it difficult to create a cohesive culture. In fact, many field employees identified with the sub-brand for which they worked and couldn’t even name the parent company when asked.

In addition, despite the client’s ongoing investment in a solid package of employee programs, services, and opportunities, employees weren’t seeing past their paycheck to understand and value programs offered–their overall total rewards. Many benefit programs were languishing unknown and underused. The client approached Seattle’s employee communications team looking for a solution. The client’s primary goals were to enhance employees’ level of understanding and engagement in both practical and deeper cultural ways:

  • In financial terms, maximize the return on the considerable investment the organization was making in employee programs. Specifically, leadership wanted to boost awareness of, appreciation for, and participation in key benefit programs like company-sponsored healthcare plans, education assistance, and the 401(k) plan.
  • On the cultural front, increase employee engagement and, over time, build trust, influence attraction, motivation, and retention efforts, and improve productivity. Developing these factors would also enable them to ask what their employees truly value and receive honest feedback, which they wanted to use to guide future decisions about total rewards programs and investment.

The solution

We discussed the power of personalized total rewards statements to address their goals. Statements would communicate the overall total rewards package, summarizing pay and benefit programs and clearly expressing the dollar value of the rewards. They would also highlight less tangible benefit offerings. They would build brand awareness with field employees. And they would help strengthen the company’s connection with employees overall.

It was a go, and the creative journey through the development stages began.

Building a total rewards framework. To begin, we spent valuable time upfront exploring the full range of programs offered, listening carefully to what the client wanted to feature and promote as well as the behaviors they most wanted to encourage. From those conversations, we built a total rewards framework and model, including a consistent taxonomy that reflected their unique values and culture.

Branding and design. It was important to create a total rewards brand that would be sustainable over time and provide longer-term opportunities for communicating with employees about their total rewards. The brand needed to harmonize with the client’s external corporate brand yet also needed to be distinct to set it apart and promote internal recognition for employees over time. Of course, the parent logo was displayed prominently to create recognition for field employees especially.

Creating variable content by audience. The content would reflect a high degree of variability beyond just personal data. It needed to reflect the company’s complex audience grid with variations for field and corporate-based staff, full-time and part-time workers, hourly and salaried, bonus-eligible and non-bonus eligible, and several levels of managers and executives. Each version showed relevant content by employee group as well as by the individual’s personal elections and status.

Wrangling data. Vast data would need to be captured and pulled into statements to capture variations in pay and bonuses, benefit elections, and eligible offerings. To enable the client to reflect mid-year merit increases and deliver statements in early fall (accommodating unique business reasons), two types of data were included: actual data from the first six months of the year and projected data for the last six months. Thus, statements would provide an annual estimate of total rewards.

Programming. We use sophisticated software to integrate variable artwork, content, and data and accommodate variations in graph and table length. These elements must be accurately mapped, programmed, and layered to successfully create 30,000 uniquely personalized statements. At every stage, statements underwent rigorous review by our internal team and the client to test and ensure all fields were properly coded and pulling data accurately.

Production. Finally, the statements were ready to print and mail. The final product was a full color, six-page statement that opened to a three-page spread. To ensure the highest degree of security and to ensure that each individual statement was properly matched with its employee, we used a trusted and experienced fulfillment company with sophisticated quality control capabilities and data checks.

The outcome

The executive leadership team was thrilled with the compelling and culturally inspiring design and unique total rewards brand. The HR team was flooded with calls from employees requesting more information about programs they hadn’t known existed–from education assistance to the employee referral bonus to perks like cell phone discounts. A series of informal employee focus groups yielded unanimously positive feedback.

In the three years since we’ve been producing these statements, the client continues to witness the powerful impact they have on employees. Despite a change in ownership and annual re-brands during this time, the statements have remained an enduring and consistent message. What it shows is powerful–that the company cares about and invests in their employees in many important ways. Every year after the statements go out, they see a rise in program participation, more activity on the benefit website, and many more employees taking advantage of benefits they didn’t know they had. Engagement scores on the annual employee survey have also spiked. The client is more committed than ever to providing personalized total rewards statements.