#ChallengeTheProcess: Meet people where they are

I find it very easy to get stuck in my own head. The things I say make sense to me – but not necessarily the person I’m speaking to, and of course I’m met with blank stares.

When my mum stayed with me over the bank holiday weekend, we had this conversation:

“She sends her love.”
“That’s so nice! Who does?”

It turns out my mum can’t read my mind. Overall, that’s probably a good thing – but it does mean I have to make an effort to make sure we’re on the same page when we start talking. Whether it’s a personal or professional conversation, people won’t know the things that are in my head before I explain them.

It’s likely the same for your reward communications, too. You know what you’ve got on offer, you know how amazing it is, you know the ins and outs. But here’s the thing: your colleagues probably don’t. They can’t read your mind, any more than my mum can read mine.

It’s something communicators call ‘the curse of knowledge’. Knowledge is a good thing, of course; it’s empowering and helps you make better decisions. The curse comes into effect when you’re so used to knowing something, you forget what it’s like not to know it.

With your reward communications, that curse of knowledge can easily creep in. Telling colleagues that their SIP will vest after three years in quarterly instalments will not mean anything to them if their frame of reference is that a vest is an item of clothing, and a sip is what they take when they’re thirsty.

If you don’t want to leave room for miscommunication, you need to begin the conversation where they are. That means understanding what they know – and what they don’t – and adapting your communications accordingly. If you don’t speak their language, you risk wasting valuable time and more importantly, their attention.

The golden rule of communication: know your audience

The starting point is to understand your colleagues. What makes them tick? What are their hopes? What makes them anxious? Are they online or offline? Permanent or transient? What languages do they speak? Have they invested before? What’s their level of education? What part of the world are they in? Ask yourself questions like these about your colleagues, and use that information to tailor your communications to them.

Let’s look at what that means in practice. Imagine you’re launching a new benefit which gives employees access to a pension adviser. It’s a great new addition that could have long-lasting benefits, but how you communicate that will depend on your colleagues.

Scenario 1

Your colleagues are mostly digital natives in their 20s. They’re worried about rent and housing costs, so they won’t currently invest in their pension.

Solution: The best way to reach them is likely to be your internal social media channels, such as Teams or Slack. Your message should include some financial education; acknowledge that money is tight but explain the value of security for their golden years.

Scenario 2

Your colleagues are highly educated, mostly in their 50s, and tend to ask a lot of questions. Most own their homes and are close to retirement age.

Solution: The best way to reach them is to invite them to a town hall meeting. Go through the plan in high-level detail with slides as a visual accompaniment – and leave plenty of time for a Q&A. Your colleagues are likely to be engaged, so there’s less need to explain the benefits; instead, your message should focus on how it works.

It’s only by meeting people where they are that you can bring them on a journey with you.

Need our help to communicate with your colleagues in a way that appeals to them? Get in touch for an initial conversation.

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