Here’s a funny story: I returned to work after my maternity leave to discover that my email account was active for the entire year that I was away. I logged on and watched the email counter go up…and up…and then decided I’d better go get a coffee. When I got back to my desk, I had almost 10,000 emails in my inbox—and that’s without sending any myself.

I often hear people complain that their email is out of control: “I just don’t have time to read everything,” or “If it’s really important, they’ll pick up the phone and call me.” And if they’re getting tens of thousands of messages each year, as I apparently am, you can understand why.

Information overload: it’s a problem in today’s work environment, where messages fly back and forth at light speed and co-workers email you instead of simply walking over to your desk. And it creates an added challenge for employers when trying to communicate with employees on pension and benefits matters.

Benefits Canada’s annual Survey of Capital Accumulation Plan Members has repeatedly found that pension and benefits issues just aren’t a priority for employees. Effective communication can help fight employee apathy, but if your employees are getting 10,000 emails per year, is yet another email reminder from HR likely to get their attention?

Online opportunities to connect with employees abound: email, websites, blogs, webinars, video and social media forums, to name just a few. These tools have their place in educating employees and encouraging sound decision-making, but they may not be enough.

Perhaps it’s time to go back to basics. Sit down one on one with new employees to clearly explain how pension and benefits plans work—and enrol them on the spot—instead of making benefits just another item on a checklist. Communicate face to face with both members and non-members to teach them about the importance of saving for retirement and the criticality of contributing early and often. Encourage a two-way dialogue and give employees lots of opportunities to ask questions, instead of making a call centre their sole point of contact. And, recognizing that there will always be some employees that you just can’t engage, take a closer look at plan design and default investment options.

Is all of this time-consuming? Well, yes. But it may also be more effective than adding to an employee’s overflowing inbox.

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Copyright © 2019 Transcontinental Media G.P. This article first appeared in Benefits Canada.

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