Communication Strategies to Maximize Mental Health Benefits
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After one of the most tumultuous years in recent history, many organizations are taking new steps to support their employees by promoting existing mental health resources like Employee Assistance Programs or adding a suite of new programs, like covered virtual counseling sessions, subscriptions to mental health apps and more. But in all these cases, the most critical step is to make sure employees are aware of these programs and understand them through communication.
After all, your benefits programs won’t help employees if they don’t know they exist, how they help an employee, or how to access and use them.
Even with so many great resources, companies may not be making it easy for employees to take advantage of what’s available. It’s not a surprising obstacle in a world of so much digital noise — it’s harder than ever before to deliver information to the people who need it most, much less verify that they’ve received and absorbed that message. On top of that, different employees and different employee groups likely have very different needs or may have different benefits options available to them.
Without the ability to communicate and deliver these benefits effectively, benefits go unused, and employees go underserved. Targeted messaging, experience-driven communications and a culture of feedback are key to ensuring your core mental health offering is making the impact it should on your workforce.
Understanding what your employees really need starts with seeing the unique context of their situations — their family situation and home life, their benefits-eligible status, the location they live in and their day-to-day mental health needs. In addition, employees may need mental health resources at very different times. This means employers need to target different messages to different employee groups rather than sending a one-size-fits-all communication. Then deliver messaging to reinforce the value of your programs often so they’re top-of-mind when employees need them most. Consistent, targeted communications are critical to driving program adoption and truly helping employees.
In such a digital and distributed world, you also need to ensure that your delivery method aligns with the particular groups you’re trying to reach. No matter how on-point and people-centric your message is, it won’t matter if you’re using communication channels that are overlooked by employees. It’s important to use the channels that make the most sense for your specific employee groups.
Engaging Experiences, Not One-Off Emails
When you’re looking to support employees with something as individual as mental health, a one-off companywide email isn’t going to cut it. Instead, approach the delivery of this information as a campaign; a series of bite-sized, easy-to-digest pieces that fit together over a period of time. Short-form content in tandem with targeted messaging creates an engaging journey for employees to discover and explore what’s most relevant to them.
Just because an organization has a new program, it doesn’t mean connecting it to employees is an easy or intrinsic step. There’s often a gap between the strategies and programs of an organization and connecting them with the workforce, but the key is maintaining a consistent, visible presence for the audience you’re trying to reach. If there’s an enrollment deadline associated with the mental health program you’re rolling out, consider a weeks-long campaign leading up to that deadline so employees are informed and prepared by the time it comes around. If there’s no set timeframe and several other employee programs are currently being communicated, coordinate your enterprise communications so they have the best chance at making an impact without overwhelming.
Empathetic, Supportive Messaging
Programs involving mental health assistance can be deeply sensitive and personal for employees, so it’s especially important that you provide support confidentiality. A great way to promote these programs is to leverage your people managers. These managers can act as your frontline source of information for the workers they know best. Managers can also suggest these resources for employees showing signs of burnout or extreme stress if the manager feels comfortable and empowered to do so.
It’s important to realize that most employees have been facing totally new challenges since the onset of the pandemic, so it’s particularly important to take the time to strike the right tone and messaging when you’re communicating these benefits.
This approach to stronger, more relevant communication about mental health programs should all be in an effort of bettering company culture. Building and supporting a company environment around themes of wellness and inclusion will only serve to make the process of employer-employee connection easier and more seamless.
If employees feel valued and supported by both your program offering and your thoughtful messaging, they’re more likely to give feedback and let you know what’s working so you can continue to optimize and improve your strategy over time.
It’s easy to overlook the delivery of any new program in the workplace. Promoting new or existing mental health programs simply won’t have the impact you want without effective communications. Your approach should be built around driving adoption in an effort to truly support your diverse employees on an individual level.
Building a targeted, personalized approach, a campaign-style roll out, empathetic messaging and a culture of positive feedback and improvement will all be a huge communications boost toward the success of your mental health initiatives.
About the Author
Keith Kitani is the CEO and co-founder of GuideSpark.