Four Pieces of Year-end Communication Every Company Needs

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As the end of the year approaches, it's essential to alert employees to any changes in benefits, policies and compensation (plus all the fun stuff) with these four essential company-wide communications.

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The end of the year is a busy time for employers. You’re not just wrapping up the current year, tying loose ends and planning the year-end holiday party. You’ve also got business to attend to. At the end of every calendar year, most employees will experience changes in one or more of the following categories: compensation, benefits coverage, or position. These changes will all need to be communicated to employees as well as any schedule changes due to the holidays, any fun social events (whether in-person or virtual), and changes to company policies.

To make sure you’re prepared for all of your end-of-the-year communications here are the documents, memos, and emails you should be drafting.

Communication #1: Changes in benefits

Since health insurance coverage is one of the major concerns for employees, having clear, company wide communication about any and all changes to benefits coverage is essential. These changes could include:

  • Health insurance company (e.g. switching from Blue Cross to United Healthcare)
  • Coverage levels (e.g. changes in the percent of premiums the employer will be paying)
  • Who counts as a dependent (i.e. domestic partner vs. spouse)
  • Type of plan (e.g. PPO to HMO)
  • A new offering, such as a Health Savings Account (HSA) or Flexible Spending Account (FSA)
  • New rollover allowance or maximum contribution limits
  • New employer contributions to HSAs or FSAs
  • New levels of employer matching to retirement accounts
  • Any other change to the benefits package that will go into effect in the new year

Communication #2: Any changes in the company's financial performance

Many employees receive a year-end bonus and performance-based compensation increase in the new calendar year. Sometimes part of the calculation of their bonus and compensation increase is based on the financial performance of the company. If that’s the case at your company, then it’s vital to communicate any company related financial changes (good or bad) that may impact employees’ financial awards.

These communications don’t have to be detailed or reveal any sensitive financial information. The goal is to set employees’ expectations so they don’t receive a negative surprise down the road. If your company has a documented compensation philosophy, frame this year’s changes as still in support of that value statement. And make sure to give managers additional resources to help them have difficult conversations with direct reports. These resources should give them necessary details, clear “do’s” and “don’ts” about how to answer questions, and a reminder to highlight employees’ total compensation package which could include:

  • Compensation
  • Bonus
  • Employer-paid medical premiums
  • Employer contributions to retirement accounts, HSAs and FSAs
  • PTO/Sick leave

Communication #3: Changes in company policies

The big policy change that most companies are now grappling with is where employees are allowed to work and how that location change could affect their compensation. Some companies are hustling to get everyone back in the office, some have gone permanently remote, and some adopted a hybrid approach. Whatever your company has decided for the next calendar year, you’ll need to create a communications plan detailing what’s expected of employees to ensure everyone is on the same page.

Your company might have other policy changes such as those that regulate relationships between managers and direct-reports, PTO, or the employee evaluation process. All of these changes should be documented in a separate communication that makes clear:

  • What the old policy was and what’s being changed
  • The logic behind the change in policy
  • The tools available to employees to help make this policy change work for everyone

Communication #4: The fun stuff

If your office closes for any holidays, you should at the very least send communications that give clear dates of closures. This is especially important if you have regional or international offices that might have different holiday schedules. The easiest way to make sure there’s no confusion is to issue a calendar with all office closures clearly marked. This is helpful not only to the employees in the impacted office, but also for employees in different locations who might not have the same holiday schedule. When there’s a calendar everyone can refer to, communication is a lot easier.

In addition to holiday closures, most companies traditionally plan a year-end event to celebrate all of the employees’ hard work. Most companies probably aren’t back to doing big in-person events just yet, and the virtual ones might feel easy to skip. If you’re concerned about attendance at your gatherings, send several communications about the event in a way that gets employees excited. Maybe you tease them with a few details and plan a big surprise. Maybe you enlist the help of the most outgoing of your employees to get everyone excited.

Regardless of your strategy, make sure you communicate the details clearly and send a few reminders so no one gets left out.

Create a year-end communication plan

There’s a lot to do at the end of every year so issuing a company-wide communication document, even if it’s just an email, can feel like a monumental task. There are many ways you can approach it, but here are a few ways you can streamline and simplify:

  • Combine changes that fall under the same or similar categories, or changes that affect each other, into the same communication document, such as an email.
  • Create an internal digital bulletin board or company announcements channel so employees can check for updates and or refer to previously communicated changes (so they don't have to worry about keeping an email). A digital bulletin board often cuts down on the deluge of emails HR tends to field at the end of the year.

However you approach your year-end communications, it’s important to keep your employees in the loop with what’s going on within the company. It helps them to feel connected (which is even more important in the new remote-work world) and it helps prevent confusion and negative surprises down the road. If you need additional help on communicating benefits to employees, check out our Employer Resources library.

Disclaimer: the content presented in this article are for informational purposes only, and is not, and must not be considered tax, investment, legal, accounting or financial planning advice, nor a recommendation as to a specific course of action. Investors should consult all available information, including fund prospectuses, and consult with appropriate tax, investment, accounting, legal, and accounting professionals, as appropriate, before making any investment or utilizing any financial planning strategy.

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