In this thought-leader podcast, Teresa Hopke chats with Cara Williams, Administrative Director of HR for Scripps Health. Williams is a repeat-speaker at the annual Working Mother conference where she presents on the ‘hows and whys’ of communicating your workplace flexibility program. Here she shares that same knowledge with us.
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Teresa Hopke: When we think about communicating flex, the company newsletter and the intranet site are top of mind. But what else can companies be doing to communicate flexibility?
Cara Williams: Well, you know, we really try to build it into our overall culture, so we start communicating it at new employee orientation. So day one, our employees are exposed to all of the things that we offer them from a flexible standpoint. We also reinforce all of those things during open enrollment, and that’s always a great way to remind people of the things that they are eligible for that may help them in their flexible schedules. As well as we try to incorporate employees’ stories, so when we have a story of an employee that utilized one of our flexible benefits, and it really was a win-win for them, we then publish that story in some of our publications, and/or even videotape it. People in place can hear from other employees in terms of how flex is working for them.
Teresa Hopke: How do you keep the message fresh?
Cara Williams: Well, we’re always communicating. We have a variety of different venues. We have a thing called the hot seat which will put questions in, and answer the question so then people can kind of get it more real-time what exactly is going on. You never really can communicate too much, but the key is really targeting your communication.
So, for example, we have what we call an expectant workshop where we target specific groups of employees that we know are expecting, and bring them into the workshop, and we talk about all of the benefits that they’re eligible, as well as some of the flex benefits that they could have once they return. We found that this is a really great mechanism to hear the message aloud. If you’re not really necessarily looking, you may not go onto the newsletter and such like that, but if you saw that there was an expectant parent workshop, and you were expecting, you’d go, “Oh, I definitely want to go to that workshop to hear about it.” And then we don’t just communicate the regular benefit things, but we also communicate some flex things.
Teresa Hopke: Yeah, I like that targeted approach. Are there other specific examples of ways that you target groups other than the expectant parent?
Cara Williams: You know, we do a lot. We just had one recently for specific – we targeted people that are nearing retirement. We have a program called staged retirement, which allows people to kind of step down their workload, but still remaining an active employee. So, we target those demographics, and we send them some information about their different benefits, the retirement plans, as well as staged retirement. So, we target a variety of different groups. We’re kind of new into this, so we started with the expected parent, and we kind of went on to retirement. So, we’re looking for a new and different ideas.
We also just did something with folks whose parents may be getting older, and so we did a workshop on how to care for aging parents. We opened that up to all of our employees. We had like 150 people there – it was on a Saturday.
Teresa Hopke: It’s interesting that you just mentioned that you did something on a Saturday. Do you communicate in other ways outside of the workday?
Cara Williams: Absolutely. We’re a 24/7 operation, so we have to make sure that when we’re communicating about our flexibility that we are flexible. So, we do some things in the evenings, we do some things in the weekends. Again, we have a lot of our workforce that may only work on the weekends, and so if we didn’t do things and communicate all of the time, we would miss a huge population of our workforce.
Teresa Hopke: So do you think there’s ever such a thing as over-communicating your flex program?
Cara Williams: Absolutely not. I don’t think you can ever over-communicate, but you do need to make sure that your communication is targeted, and that you’re not always communicating everything, all the time. Because if you do that, then yes, people will stop reading it because they say, oh, it’s the same message over and over again. So we make sure that we’re targeting the communication. We actually have a communication strategy that we map out a year in advance, so we know – week by week, and month by month – what we’re gonna communicate, what benefit, why, and how it ties into our overall human resource strategy. So we found that you can’t over-communicate, but if you don’t target it, you will – people will tune you out.
Teresa Hopke: So do you think that all of your intentional efforts around targeted communications – do you think that they pay off?
Cara Williams: Absolutely. We’re lucky because we get to measure it. We have an annual employee satisfaction survey where we ask specific questions about, “Overall, do you think this is a great place to work? And, do you have flexible benefit? How would you rate our benefits?” And those questions we get, we always score high in the 90 percent. So over 90 percent of our employees feel that we have great benefits, and feel that we have flexible benefits. So we’re lucky; we know it’s working. The data is pretty black and white in terms of we know that it’s working.