Pension communication is complicated. Our poll found that for the majority of you it is complicated or non-existent. It is more important than ever as part of the employer value proposition to communicate it effectively given the pension changes happening next year.
‘17% of employers spend nothing at all communicating their organisation’s pension, 53% spend less than 1% of their total benefits spend‘ Employee Benefits, Axa Pensions Research
What makes communications effective?
We believe the three key principles for an effective communication are:
1. Keep it simple and stick to the basics
2. Think like a marketer by segmenting and targeting your audience to make the message work for the recipient
3. Give it impact with clear, concise messaging
Here is our step-by-step guide
1. Make it relevant
It’s important to know your audience – one size doesn’t fit all. Employees differ in age, literacy and numeracy levels, learning styles and attitudes. They may be new or long-serving members of the scheme. They may be located in different parts of the country or world. Target the content and method of delivery to ensure that you engage your audience.
2. Recognise the needs of the employee
Good communications should provide the employee with the information they need throughout their membership in the scheme and to help them to understand the options available to plan for their retirement and to understand their own benefits once retired. Communications should be:
• clear, helpful and relevant to the customer
• delivered using an appropriate method and at the appropriate time.
Your key messages should be direct and consistent. It is important to communicate in clear plain language that is easily understood. The message should be simple and straight forward avoiding the use of pensions jargon. Too much information can be a distraction. Also, don’t be afraid to repeat your message as people forget about 80% of information immediately after they receive it. Repeating a message over and over, especially in a new fresh way, gives a better chance that more is retained.
Communications should be branded consistently to avoid the risk of a disjointed employee experience. By leaving individual providers to deliver the key messages the employee may become confused about who the message is actually from.
5. When to communicate
Information about the pension scheme must be timely. Whether communicating at a specific event, such as when a member joins, takes maternity or paternity leave, leaves before retirement, on retirement or death or because of a change to the scheme, information about the pension scheme must come at the right time to be most useful. However, it is widely regarded within the industry that continuous engagement with people, so that they are more regularly aware of their pension, is most effective.
6. Identify best ways to communicate
Consider the advantages of various forms of communication when setting out to communicate with employees. Sometimes it may be helpful to use more than one channel of communication, or to repeat the message at suitable intervals.
Online communications have increased in recent years with the use of pension microsites (an online secure website that communicates pension benefits directly, clearly and securely to employees). However, many people still like face-to-face communications in one to one situations, group presentations or meetings.
7. Reviewing the effectiveness of communications
Feedback and review are essential to proving the value of the communications and justifying the money spent on it. Seeking feedback is also a good way to show employees you care about their views and decisions.
Conducting a full-scale employee survey is still the most recommended method for gaining actionable employee feedback. Professionals recommend doing surveys on a regular basis, but say you shouldn’t do it any more often than once a year because employees could lose interest if pressed for feedback too often.
If members don’t understand their pension scheme then they may not appreciate its value or realise how it can help them to save for retirement. As a result they may not benefit from their scheme as much as they should.
Employers should have an interest in seeing that:
• members are engaged and motivated to plan for their eventual retirement and do not become confused and discouraged
• the messages are effective in attracting, motivating and retaining employees
• unnecessary time and resources are not taken up by ineffective or badly planned communications exercises
• the requirements of legislation are complied with.
These benefits are unlikely to be achieved unless the scheme is clearly communicated to the employees. This is where working with a communications specialist is essential.