With open enrollment fast approaching, benefit decision-makers are focused on their communication strategies, particularly if there are changes to the plans they’re offering this year.

Parker McKenna, chief human resource officer for Springfield (Missouri) Public Schools, was recently at the forefront of a system-wide restructuring of the school system’s leadership team and shares some lessons learned.

“Everyone was affected,” he said of the reorganization. And with more than 4,000 employees and 60 facilities, the task of effectively educating and communicating the company message was no small task.

“We tried not to differentiate, and we wanted one voice,” he says. “We started talking about the ‘why’ for the change, and working with the communications department, were able create a clear message from the executive level down.”

Also see: The evolution of employee communications

To be successful communicating change to workers, employers must have their finger on the pulse of their employee population, McKenna advises. “Get that by asking, ‘how do you prefer to be communicated with?’

Second: It’s really important to understand the climate and culture of organization, says McKenna. “What’s helping or hindering your engagement? Once you know that, build your communication around those issues.” For example, if employees don’t feel they’re being a part of the communication, you need to tackle that head on, he says.

“Think about things like blogs or town hall forums that can help specifically address gaps in culture or engagement,” McKenna adds. “Those I think are keys to helping organizations communicate the right way and ultimately engage.”

Keith Kitani, CEO of Guidespark, suggests taking an evolutionary approach in making changes to your communications structure.

“Don’t think, ‘I’ve been doing my brochures, but now we’re going to strictly text messaging,’” he says. “Those kinds of dramatic things may not be the most effective. You evolve to that, and then you measure its effectiveness.” 

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