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Explaining pensions

It's wasted effort if your staff don't get the message

Too many employers fall at this final hurdle. Your employees must understand the deal you're offering to value it. Money spent on effective communication will more than repay itself in terms of your employees' view of these benefits.


Plan your communications carefully. Work out what your goals are, how you intend to achieve them and by when. Devise a method of measuring the effectiveness of your communications strategy. The best way of doing this is to ask employees for feedback, thus demonstrating that you care about their views and decisions.

Be sensitive to your workforce's individual needs. A few general points are worth bearing in mind:

Keep it short
While communications which include every detail of your pension scheme may reassure the legal-minded they may well bore your workforce. Make sure that details are available but, particularly during early communications, concentrate on getting your message across.

Keep it simple
Try to use plain English as much as possible. The message must be simple and straight forward; don't get bogged down with financial or legal jargon.

Be open
A pension scheme is a commitment shared by you and your employees so don't keep them in the dark or wait for good news to cover up any bad news you have to give. People respond better to being told the truth, even when it's unsavoury. If you have pledged to keep your workforce up to date then communicate regularly, even if you just report there have been no changes.

Know your workforce
The best means of delivery for your message will vary depending on your workforce. An older workforce may be more susceptible to a traditional brochure. A younger workforce may be comfortable with email.

Personalise your message
If your company is small enough, try to talk to your employees individually. With a larger workforce personalise your communications as much as possible, or link them to events like birthdays.

Reach out to opinion-makers
If someone known and respected believes in the scheme, others will too. Recognise the influence of trade unions and staff representatives and try to include them in the pension design process. Senior management must buy into the programme in order for it to be trusted generally.

Time your message
Information about a pension scheme must come at the right time. If there is a negative change and information is delayed then rumours will circulate. If pensions are a particularly emotive issue amongst your workforce then try to make changes gradually. Create time for employees to consider their options and make sure there's someone they can talk to.

Repeat your message
f you repeat your message it stands more chance of making a lasting impression.

Keep it fresh
The same message repeated over and over will eventually be ignored. Use multiple media or vary design periodically.

Promote benefits, not features
Your message should clearly explain the benefits of membership. Try to emphasise the company's contribution and demonstrate that by not signing up employees may lose out financially.

For more information, case studies and checklists which will help you to design your pension communication strategy check out Pension Communication - Realising the Value, produced jointly by the Employer Task Force on Pensions and the Chartered Institute for Personnel and Development

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