Now that the Pensions Act has successfully passed through the Lords it’s time to have a long hard look at how your communication strategy will support the changes over the next 18 months.

If you’re adapting your offer in line with the new rules for 2012, will your employees understand the changes? Is communication coherent and engaging for all? Does your offer make employees feel they are working for a company that really values them as an individual and cares about their personal wellbeing? After all, that’s what will ultimately drive engagement in all areas of the workplace.

Pensions have not been communicated with much flair historically because, by their very nature, they’re driven by strict financial policy and regulation. I came across a company once that had worked hard with actuaries to produce a whopping great 180-page document detailing the inner-workings of its pension scheme. The CEO seemed surprised when take-up didn’t materialise. Of course employees were simply overwhelmed by its volume and baffled by the language.

It simply doesn’t have to be this way!

Companies aren’t legally obliged to simplify and explain the schemes they offer, but the smart companies do. For example Telefonica have, over the years, taken great effort not to anaesthetise employees with jargon and technical complexity. It makes sense to help people understand exactly what’s on offer and what it means to them. They’re hugely grateful if the technicalities are explained in ways that are digestible and meaningful. This much-needed help becomes a workplace benefit in itself.

To begin with you have to give the bigger picture, that means explaining the ‘why and how’ of the scheme rather than just the mechanics of it. Putting it in a personal, domestic context will help people understand how the pension they’re looking at could shape their family’s future.

Use your brand – align the scheme with the company’s culture – give the scheme some personality, with values and principles that reflect the company’s core brand, so employees recognise it as a valuable addition to the many benefits the company provides. Ultimately if staff see their pension as part of the value proposition their employer is making, they are more likely to appreciate the efforts being made, and engage. This way the scheme reassures employees that they’re working for a company that cares, wants to share knowledge and help individuals prepare for the future.

As the pensions market evolves employees really need to understand their benefits plan to maximise its worth to them. Yes pensions are complex, but let’s not hide behind their regulatory nature and give up on careful explanation. If you help employees understand the changes and navigate the choices they need to make – whether with face-to-face assistance or through digital communication – your pension scheme could become a pleasure rather than a pain. Communicated well, it can become a very powerful tool for engagement.

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