How to reach employees to make the mundane matter


An HR communication case study in getting action

Let’s face it. Grabbing and keeping your employees’ attention is plain hard to do, especially when topics are rather dull—like data security and regulatory compliance.

So when you have boring, but business critical action requests to communicate, how do you break through to employees, especially when they’re busy doing great work, driving toward deadlines and laser-focused on serving customers?

Policies, training modules, employee handbooks and attestation programs are all table stakes, but alone they won’t get it done. You need creative ways to engage employees in these critical communications.

Going from uninteresting to attention-grabbing

At EyeMed, we believe with the right communication anything can be interesting and compelling, even the most mundane and mandatory. Over the years, we’ve learned to design effective and creative strategies for getting our own employees to sit up and take notice, and getting them to act.

Now, we’d like to share one of our own case studies in hopes of helping other employers succeed when faced with communicating topics that may be otherwise mind-numbing.

Security and compliance training...what?

Last year, like every year, each employee needed to complete HIPAA and Fraud, Waste and Abuse awareness training, among others, with 100% participation. No exceptions, by federal law. This is no small thing, but these subjects can be drier than the Sahara.

Not only are these security and compliance trainings a legal requirement, they’re crucial for business and protecting members privacy. This startling fact underscores the importance of compliance with such training—did you know nearly 90% of health care companies had a data breach in the last 2 years1?

As humdrum as these subjects might be, we needed to ask 600 employees for 4 hours of their time spread over 5 weeks – right in the middle of the busiest year in our history. If any topic called for a compelling communication program, this was it.

Starting with the creation of an intriguing theme, our “All Eyes on You” employee campaign became a solid success. Over 90% finished training within just 5 weeks and 100% finished by the end-of-year mandate. It took hard work, creative thinking and a flexible set of communication strategies.

5 communication strategies to go from ho-hum to high-five

These internal communication strategies worked for us. Maybe they could work for your company, too.

1. Know your organization

Match your message to your company culture, and it’s automatically meaningful and believable. We knew our employees love 2 things: competition and food. So we turned the campaign into a widespread contest for teams and individuals, with plenty of prizes and reasons to participate. And then we added chocolate.

2. Make it a team effort

You’re facing a lot of noise out there. One lonely voice will probably just get swallowed up. But coordinate efforts among several teams – now you’ve got something. To make sure everyone was on the same page and fully on board, our internal communication team worked closely with human resources, marketing, security and compliance, and, of course, senior leadership. Speaking of leadership...

3. Engage leaders to engage employees

When senior leadership speaks, people listen. Involve them from day #1. This is the key to engaging the entire organization. Start with a proposal that succinctly previews your concept and the importance of your message, and don’t forget their talking points. Then give them something easy and public to do to show their buy-in (we asked them to pass out prizes).

4. Think visuals, slogans and stats

You can make anything interesting if your message is simple, specific, consistent and meaningful. Stats are good, but don’t bury your audience in facts. Find a couple relevant nuggets and hammer them home. A colorful, clever theme and design like we created to carry the All Eyes on You program message (“You’re the key—protect member data”) resonated with employees and was carried out through all the program elements touching employees.

Most of all, focus it on action. What is it you want people to do? Make that the centerpiece of everything. Our Key to Success message reinforced ownership and action-- that little things they do really matter with security and compliance.

5. Make it fun and never let ‘em forget

One channel isn’t enough to have a message sink in, let alone gain buy-in or spur action. Splash the message everywhere and make it interactive – newsletters, hallways, on the floor by the copier, in break rooms and restrooms, and on digital TV monitors, followed by emails throughout the campaign. And employees love – love – finding fun and free items on their desks in the chocolate in the shape of a key.

Learn from your success and your mistakes

Like knowing what does work for your culture, you should also pay attention to things that don’t work after implementing a communication program and apply those findings to your next effort. We’ve tried a few things that didn’t quite pan out as envisioned, and adjusted them for new communication programs.

Thanks to this multi-pronged communications approach, data security and compliance is top of mind for all employees at EyeMed. Way beyond the compliance numbers, our employees know we’re not kidding. The message has stuck. They’re all looking out for the privacy of our members and the security of our data.

Now we’re adopting these 5 strategies into all our internal communication and getting similar great results.

What’s worked for you? Do you have a success story for communicating dry-but-critical subject matter? We’d love to hear how you broke through the noise.