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Interview: Making pensions communications decipherable

Andy Moffitt, Group Managing Director Ferrier Pearce Creative Group, talks to Helen Swire about the importance of employee-first communications

09 August 2017
Helen Swire

Are you seeing employers doing innovative things with their digital communications – or is there a way to go?

 

There are some very good examples of employers who are making considerable strides forward in C their communications with their members. They are engaging people much more in the context of saving and doing so in a tone and with language that is much more empathetic to real people and their situation. There are lots of changes, and the language of positive, informed choices is being recognised by companies. Yes, pensions communications have a way to go: but the industry is making strides and importantly, is recognising the need to do so.

 

What should employers be thinking about in terms of implementing engaging communications?

 

We would ask employers and trustees what they are looking to achieve overall and what their clear objectives are. Digital technology is not the silver bullet to everything: it is a huge opportunity, but there has to be a business case to support the activity and how it should be delivered and then in the context of considering all the available channels and what’s the right channel for the right message to the right member group.

 

Employers must also think about user-centric design: having the capability to communicate with their staff in the right way, with the right message, in the way employees wish to receive that message. Some people want communications through email, others through hard copy, and others face-to-face, others through a mix of course. You need to be clear what your members want, and challenge yourself on the language and the approach, and also the experience you want to deliver.

 

Too often communications are written from the very introspective viewpoint of the company and the legal or regulatory view, and then so often in a  language which is indecipherable! But if you understand how to deliver an experience which is both understandable and also empathetic to members' challenges and issues, then you'll get them to engage and ultimately change their behaviours in a positive manner.

 

In short, employers need to be:

 

  • Clear about their objectives and how they are going to deliver those objectives
  • Prepared to take small, iterative steps to affect dynamic long-term change
  • Communicate clearly, in a language that is understandable to the members and always consider their point of view and what matters to them
  • And above all deliver an experience to the members, across all channels, digital and off-line that is engaging, relevant, informative and accessible such that the member can make positive infirmed choices.

 

If employers are taking these steps, is that the key to engaging a wider workforce with their pensions and benefits?

 

Absolutely: employers have to realise that their biggest resource and their biggest advocates – and their best advocates – are their employees. Employee engagement is critical: too often communications don't engage the workforce or make it relevant to their realities. 

 

You need to start from the ground up with all comms: firstly, understanding your employees – what they care about, why they work with you, and what their challenges are. Secondly, making your messaging relevant to them – how the company can support them, how it's relevant to their career. And thirdly, making your messaging relevant to their team, their office, their region etc. – so that every employee understands what it means to be an employee of that company and what they can do, indeed need to do to support he company and ultimately play their active part in making the company vision a reality. If you take those steps across into pensions comms, the principles are, I believe, exactly the same…its about relevant, personal, engaging communication that allows emloyee’s to make considered choices to improve things for themselves

 

 

What are the challenges employers need to overcome – is it the overall employee engagement picture or is it making sure older employees can actually afford to retire?

 

The two are really part of the same conversation: employers have to ask if they're supplying the right information that's allowing employees to make the right choices about their future – whether that means education, advice, digital tools and so on. 

 

Connecting people to their savings is a massive challenge and how you segment the message and make it more relevant is critical. It has to be less generic: employers should be segmenting their employees in a much more dynamic way to make it relevant to their members. Too often they group very different people in the same bracket, which disconnects them completely. Behaviours are different by age category and circumstances, and so communications need to address that in order to drive any positive change.

 

What do you want to see in the next 12 months in the space of employer communication and member engagement?

 

Over the next 12 months I would hope there would be a greater appreciation of the need to look more at employees' needs in communications, whether in pensions or benefits, and investing more time and effort in really delivering communications that engage with people in a quite different way. And of course digital has a huge part to play in this, it offers a unique opportunity to drive relevance and engaging messages, just look at how it is being embraced by other sectors. Despite the strides that have been taken over the next 12 months I think employee communications generally and indeed pension communications specifically have much to learn from these other experiences.

 

The requirement is to find a way of making the communications work in a manner that is beneficial not just to the company or the trustees, but to the employees: at the end of the day, those are the people that have to make the right choices.


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