With DC plans, getting the message out is rarely the problem. With email, printed communications and the exploding realm of social media, it’s easy to broadcast messages to members. But getting members to listen, take action and understand the “what” and “why” of the communication can often be a challenge. One reason is that when a message is broadcast, it doesn’t speak directly to a member’s particular situation. We all like to receive information that is uniquely tailored to our needs.

Targeting a message to a member’s unique situation that offers actionable solutions is an effective way to communicate. A 2010 Standard Life survey uncovered some interesting facts on how Canadian plan members react to their statements. For instance, while almost every plan member receives a statement, fewer than half actually review the statement thoroughly. To put that in perspective, 49% skim it; 5% don’t even bother to read it.

Some of the reasons they don’t engage with their statements? Members find them boring (24%) and too technical (36%), some members are not thinking about retirement (21%), and some find the statements depressing (12%).

Therefore, when looking at effective statement design, plan sponsors need to address the concerns of members and ensure that these communications are simple, engaging, insightful and actionable. To make a long story short, they need to be less boring! A good starting point is length. With the almost universal access to secure online account information, the statement should be on point and simple to understand. A detailed transaction listing (which takes up many pages) doesn’t necessarily add to the readability of a statement, so why include it?

For instance, with many of the new portfolio investment options, the members’ investor profiles are recorded. If they deviate from this investment style, a targeted message should inform them of this fact and guide them toward adjusting their circumstances.

Focusing members’ attention on their retirement goals is another effective way of targeting a message to them. Placing a graphic illustration of their current situation vis-à-vis their ultimate income goal on the statement will likely get their attention. By using a set of assumptions as a starting point, members don’t necessarily need to make the first step in order to activate their objective. With a simple presentation method they can see at a glance how they are progressing toward that goal. And, more importantly, if there is an income gap, simple suggestions and guidance can be provided to get them on track.

Plan sponsors can do a lot to help members understand and engage with their retirement plan. Simplifying the presentation of information by making their statements concise and a little less boring is a start.

Anna Pagliuca is associate vice-president, customer experience, group savings and retirement, with the Standard Life Assurance Company of Canada.

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Copyright © 2020 Transcontinental Media G.P. This article first appeared in Benefits Canada.

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