using Psychographics for employee engagement
Employee Benefits

Employee Engagement: Out with Old; In with New

Colin McLain
Colin McLain
Vice President

Employee engagement — it may be the No. 1 buzzword in all of employee benefits. I think it’s safe to say every organization is looking for improved engagement in at least one aspect of their employee benefit plans.

A typical response toward increasing engagement is likely one of the following 1) increasing the frequency of communications to employees or 2) increasing the ways we communicate to employees (i.e. using multiple mediums to communicate — email, letters, texts, videos, etc.). Each of these carry some weight with regard to increasing awareness, but do they actually increase engagement? From experience, I will concede both methods may have a positive effect on engagement but not nearly to the degree most organizations are looking for.

In one of my previous blogs, I discussed how most decisions (if not all) are made on an emotional level. It’s this emotion that typically drives our decisions in nearly every aspect of our lives. So why do we keep on using the same old communication methods to increase employee engagement? Are these really working? Or should we be communicating on a more direct, emotional level?

The fact of the matter is every employee is at a different life stage, with differing emotional factors driving their decisions. So how can you create a communication strategy that addresses them all? In short, you can’t, but you can get close. Ever heard of Psychographics?

Demographic information includes gender, age, income, location, marital status — the dry facts. Psychographics are kind of like demographics but involve more personal or emotionally based data. Psychographic information might be your life stage, priorities, interests/hobbies, values, and beliefs. Demographics may help you define “who” your audience is, while psychographics can help explain “why” individuals make their decisions.

Case in point, a 25-year-old single male has different psychographic characteristics than 30-something single mother or even a 50-something male with a family of five (including grandchildren). The differences go on and on. So why do we communicate and engage with them in the same way? A single blanket communication might convey what you want them to know, but does it really move anyone to action?

Picture this: You’re offering your employees a weight loss and risk reduction program at no cost to the employee, but still, only a few of your employees are signing up for your amazing anti-aging weight loss program. What gives? Is no one interested in losing weight, lowering their cholesterol, and feeling younger? I don’t think so. We all KNOW that’s not it. It might be we are ignoring psychographics to communicate on “their” level.

There are multiple ways to gain insight into your employee population through psychographic profiling (I know, the term sounds intrusive, but for an employer’s purpose, it’s not at all). Psychographic profiling is used by almost every major retailer in America. Most retailers are garnering information from online activity, social media, etc. That may sound intrusive, but it happens every day and most of us have no idea. Employers can use less intrusive methods by conducting short, simple surveys to gather data on their population or by working with a marketing agency that specializes in psychographics. With access to “big data,” these marketing agencies can provide some very direct insights into your employee population without ever knowing a single employee name. These methods provide an ability to deliver direct/tailored messaging to employees based on their personal life stage, priorities, interests/hobbies, values, and beliefs. This doesn’t mean you need to create a specific communication to each employee. In fact, using no more than five profiles/communications can drive significant increases in engagement.

I’m not suggesting this form of communication will gain you 100 percent engagement, but from all of the case studies I’ve read and testimonials from organizations that use them, the impact has been nothing short of amazing. I’ve been following this closely over the past few years, and I finally have the courage now (and evidence) to take the next step. Do you?

I’d encourage you to do your own research or, at least, consider it. Unless, of course, you’re satisfied with your employee engagement.

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