Since I stepped into the editor’s role at Benefits Canada in April, I have been immersed in many compelling discussions, ranging from pension reform to containing benefits costs. Although the topics have varied widely, I have noted a common thread: communication, and the pursuit thereof.

Take the recent Education Initiative Report by the Association of Canadian Pension Management (ACPM). Created on the premise that pension plan members are in the dark about their need to save adequately for retirement, the ACPM canvassed plan sponsors for their most successful communication methods.

“[Canadian employers] want to ensure that employees maximize the organization’s pension plan or retirement savings program,” explains Marcia McDougall, chair of the ACPM’s strategic communications committee. “The challenge is, retirement seems a long way off for many employees, so it’s hard to get them interested in the company pension plan until they’re at the end of their careers.”

The finding was, plan sponsors reach their members in many ways, including using targeted messages to different ages and stages; ensuring programs are accessible, relevant and personalized; and measuring communication initiatives.

Although this is just one report, the thoughts and processes translate just as easily elsewhere. Another example of strong communication is shown in an article that recently appeared on our website. According to Online Expert Susan Deller, a principal in the Toronto office at Eckler Ltd., talking about user-friendly, legally compliant forms may not be sexy, but it’s key.

“You can do everything right in terms of equipping members to make informed decisions—offering comprehensive education sessions, providing online access to retirement planning tools and offering access to qualified, independent financial planners,” Deller writes. “But it’s all for nothing if the member misinterprets the options when the time comes to sign off on an irreversible pension decision. How we communicate our messages is key to how they are received.”

The credit crisis and the multitude of recent changes to pensions—not to mention generic medication costs, pharmacy dispensing fees and funding access—highlight the need for effective communication even more. No one enjoys receiving bad news. But if those who deliver it already effectively and regularly reach out to their communities, then the pill’s easier to swallow. BC

Alison Wood is Editor of Benefits Canada .

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© Copyright 2010 Rogers Publishing Ltd. This article first appeared in the June 2010 edition of BENEFITS CANADA magazine.