© Copyright 2006 Rogers Publishing Ltd. The following article first appeared in the November 2005 edition of BENEFITS CANADA magazine.
Getting to know you
Baby boomer demographics is steering employer branding into benefits and pensions.
By Bill McCollam

During the 1990s, it was well understood that baby boomers’ growing interest in retirement and healthcare would change the employeremployee relationship dramatically.

A new workplace strategy emerged in the United Kingdom called “employer branding.” It challenged organizations to market their brand as deliberately to employees as they do customers. The payoff: improved talent attraction and retention results and heightened employee engagement levels. That in turn drove up organizational productivity and profitability.

Microsoft emerged as an early success story. A study of Microsoft U.K. employees found that 93% were proud to work for Microsoft and 92% were excited about the company’s direction and said they would miss that if they left.

A separate study drew a link between employee engagement and profitability. International Survey Research, headquartered in Chicago, found that organizations with committed employees enjoyed an
increase in profit margin of 2.1% between 1999 and 2001. Those with low levels of commitment reported a 1.4% decline.

Branding benefits and pensions
Fast forward to 2005. The oldest baby boomers are near or at retirement, and organizations are more aggressively marketing themselves as employers of choice. Among the questions facing human resources and finance executives is whether or not their benefits and pension plans are contributing to their talent attraction and retention strategy.

The research isn’t encouraging. During its eight years of publication, the sanofiaventis Healthcare Survey has shown a decline in levels of benefits plan appreciation. Seventy-three per cent of members said their plan meets their needs “extremely well” or “very well” back in 1999 and that percentage has declined steadily ever since. Just 56% said the same in 2005.

Historically, there has been a level of tacit acceptance among employers that benefits and pension plans are a competitive necessity, but not a major factor in a professional’s decision to join an organization.
But as retiring baby boomers drain the labour pool, the competitive environment will demand that benefits and pension plans contribute in the war for talent. They will have to help differentiate one
employer from another, and they will need to be seen to be a differentiator.

If employers can combine what they’ve learned about branding over the last 15 years with increasingly sophisticated plan member communications technology, then there is reason for optimism. If employers
can more effectively communicate their commitment to plan sponsorship then they will be much better positioned to attract and retain post-boomer talent.

Extraordinary progress has been made in video and online. For example:

Customized video communications are now being delivered on the World Wide Web with technology such as Macromedia Breeze.

Employers have the option of extending their brand into the provider’s online selfservice environment. It’s now possible to apply the employer’s online style guide to these self-service areas so that the member better recognizes their employer’s sponsorship. The match can even go so far as to integrate the look and feel of the employee portal, so that the plan member feels like he or she is “at home.”

The end goal is to make sure plan members understand that their employer is committed to providing them these valuable plans, and that this commitment is part of what the organization stands for. In this way, plan sponsorship can be a differentiator.

Bill McCollam is vice-president, Total Benefits, Sun Life Financial in Toronto. bill.mccollam@sunlife.com


Copyright © 2020 Transcontinental Media G.P. Originally published on benefitscanada.com

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