How to avoid three common mistakes around pension, benefits communication

Plan sponsors may have the best intentions of keeping members engaged with their pension or benefits communications, but it’s easy to miss the mark.

Here are three common communications mistakes and tips to help avoid them.

1. Choosing the wrong media (or just one):

Plan sponsors will often say, “Our members aren’t on social media,” or, “They’re not interested in watching videos about pensions.” But the reality is they can’t actually know what their members want unless they ask them, and that doesn’t have to be a huge undertaking. For example, if an employer is already sending out an annual engagement survey, why not include a few communications-related questions to better understand the employees’ needs and preferences?

Read: Leading employers offer up solutions to workplace wellness, communications challenges

People learn and understand material differently. Some are visual learners, while others prefer the written word. So whatever media an employer decides to use — whether it’s print, digital, video, mobile or all of the above — it’s going to need more than one channel to reach its employees.

Most importantly, communicating benefits and pensions isn’t a Field of Dreams scenario. Employers can build it, but that doesn’t mean their employees will come. The key is to reach them where they are, rather than expecting them to come to the employer.

2. Communicating just for the sake of it:

Regular, ongoing communications — for example, pension statements or annual reports — can be a useful springboard for engaging plan members. But it’s important to provide information that’s valuable and relevant to them or they’ll start tuning out.

Read: Manulife lays out all the options in award-winning benefits communication strategy

And before creating anything new, employers should ensure they’re maximizing the communications channels they already have in place. The real win is to take the disclosure requirements and turn them into communications opportunities.

3. Forgetting what’s in it for them:

Let’s say an employer needs to inform its members about an important plan change and it wants to get the words just right. When drafting your communications material, it’s useful to think like a plan member. Having the background and rationale is important, but what members really want to know is what’s it means for them.

Read: Alberta pension plan wins communications award for approachable, original website

And if the changes have negative implications or trade-offs — as they often do — there’s no need to sugar-coat them. Employees will see right through it, which can damage their trust in the employer, as the plan sponsor. Communicating as openly and transparently as possible will get better results than a falsely upbeat marketing pitch.

There’s no question that getting members to care about their pensions and benefits is an ongoing challenge. But with an effective and targeted communications strategy, the conversations that result are well worth the effort.