How to use social media to communicate company benefits to employees Featured

8:01pm EDT July 31, 2011
How to use social media to communicate company benefits to employees

Your company’s benefits package is a surefire way to attract and retain staff; however, this only works if your employees know how and when to take advantage of what is offered.

Because of the explosive growth of social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter, combined with the increasing popularity of PDAs, the number of avenues employers have to communicate with their employees continues to grow, says Renay Gontis, communications coordinator for JRG Advisors, the management company for ChamberChoice.

As benefits managers become less apprehensive about publicly communicating benefits plans, the use of social networking sites to reach employees with general benefit information is becoming more common.

Smart Business spoke with Gontis about how utilizing social networking sites as a platform to break down potentially confusing and overwhelming amounts of benefit information can be a great way to reach out to your employees.

Why utilize social networking in the workplace?

Social networking can enhance everyday communications. It provides an innovative avenue for employees to locate information relative to employee benefits, business policy, wellness and other business-related material. Social networking is no longer limited to personal use and can be used by employers to effectively expand upon business initiatives both internally and externally.

The idea of using social networking in the workplace may evoke feelings of both fear and excitement in the minds of employers, and it should. This phenomenon has the potential to change the way companies do business. Social networking not only helps your company connect with patrons and other interested parties, it is also a valuable resource for drawing in potential employees and recruiting the finest candidates for jobs. Social networking has the ability to get your message across to thousands of people quickly, which makes it priceless to public relations.

What are the perks to using social networking to communicate benefits?

Social networking is a quick and flexible way to get information out to your employees and can be a powerful addition to your benefits communication initiative. Sending fast and frequent updates to your employees helps to keep them thinking about their benefits year round.

? Short messages entice your employees to link to more detailed information.

? Quite often, benefits communication is delivered in a one-size-fits-all package, with so much technical information that employees cannot find what they are looking for. Social networking allows for the message to be broken down into short and concise posts.

You can pull social networking information into your employee intranet, allowing employees to choose how they want to receive information from a variety of outlets.

How can you protect your company’s reputation online?

According to Facebook’s statistics page, Facebook — the largest social networking site today based on monthly unique visitors — has more than 250 million active users. The fastest-growing group of users is people older than 35, which means it is becoming increasingly likely that your work force is getting involved with social networking.

While this has many potential benefits, you also want to take steps to ensure that no one — whether it is a competitor, a patron, or a former or current employee — is tarnishing your company’s name or reputation. The same holds true for blogs, where damaging content may appear without your consent.

The key to keeping your risk low is identity management. The best way to prevent Internet buzz from becoming a hazard is to monitor the use of your company name. Periodically type it into a search engine to make sure that your official website is the top hit and that nothing offensive comes up in the first 20 hits, which is statistically as far as most people will dig in a search.

What steps can you take if you find negative references online?

If you do find references to your company name in the first 20 hits that could be hazardous to your business or reputation, you have a few options. If social networking sites are the culprit, consider enacting a policy prohibiting employees from mentioning the company name on their personal sites. Explain the negative outcomes that this could have for business and help employees understand how acting as poor representation of the company through scandalous photos or negative comments on a social networking site could affect them directly.

If negative or derogatory comments about your company have seeped into other sites outside the control of your employees, the risk to your business is even greater. This type of hazardous publicity is more difficult to manage.

One approach is to flood the Internet with positive information about your company so that the negative write-ups are no longer within the top search results. Contacting sites and asking them to remove fictitious and defamatory material is another option.

Although social networking is a great way to get information out to your employees and their families, comprehensive resources are still necessary. A mix of online, interactive, print and in-person communication provides a well-rounded benefits communication strategy. Companies should consider how to integrate social networking into their robust employee communication platform.

Renay Gontis is the communications coordinator for JRG Advisors, the management company for ChamberChoice. Reach her at  (412) 456-7011 or renay.gontis@jrgadvisors.net.