Keeping pension scheme members engaged

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I went to the Employee Benefits Live event on Tuesday.

As I wandered from stand to stand I was surprised at how many firms were promoting their skills and technology to increase pensions awareness and education. This link takes you to the list of exhibitors, 31 in all,who provide workplace education.

Clearly there is demand as Scottish Widows‘s research would suggest

The number of people thinking their employer should offer some form of guidance on pensions has grown tremendously since last year, a survey by Scottish Widows has found.

The firm’s 2010 Workplace Pensions Report showed 40% of respondents said that employers providing a pension should also offer full financial advice. And another 55% said they should offer some kind of general information about retirement planning.

Last year, 78% of respondents said they expected employers to support them in either of these two ways.

I’ve written elsewhere on here about the difficulty of finding quality advisers prepared to meet employees and help with complex decision making– perhaps I did not know where to look! 

Perhaps there is a disconnect between what is loosely known as institutional and retail financial services. (Which is regrettable.)

There appears to be a consensus among most of the advisers I spoke to of the need to engage both through the use of technology and face to face meetings. Des Hogan reported that at a meeting he went to , Oracle were arguing that there was too much technology and not enough “pencils and crayons”. A meeting I attended , where Jenny Davidson and Scottish Widows spoke about the CSC experience, demonstrated how technology could be employed to meet the needs of a highly computer-literate workforce.

 Jenny Kreser has commented on a recent Forum thread

The best member communications are those that are targeted appropriately for their audience. Good employers will understand their workforce and temper the message and its delivery accordingly. As ever, there is no ‘one size fits all solution’ (not that you were suggesting this) but sometimes consultants may (just may) have a ‘product’ or package to sell and while it looks lovely and shiny for one audience, it may be wholly inappropriate for another.

Whether it is “lovely and shiny” or “pencils and crayons” there clearly is resource if we need it.

But what sprung out of the Jenny Davidson’s session – and I think this is a genuinely new initiative –  was the determination from CSC to keep their employees engaged by the use of automated mails, texts and Facebook messaging keeping the issues in members’ faces.

All too many of the employee communication projects have been called “exercises”, there has been no strategic approach to the subject and once the big-bang of the initial launch of the website has passed, matters have returned to normal.

For example,listening to some trustees from Volkswagen (who have recently won a series of awards for the innovatory approach to DC and DC communications)I learnt that after only a year since their member big communication exercise they had had an “abysmal” response to an employee feedback questionnaire on the new arrangements.

Finding ways to get to our employees means understanding the media our employees use to digest information, getting their consent to receive information and then getting the key messages out month after month after month.

When people join DC pensions these days, the majority of the information about them is already validated by the HR system and at worst they have a pre-populated paper application form at best an electronic app as we have become used to in other contexts.

I expect to see pull down menus emerging over the next few years where people can chose what information they want to receive and how. A data feed is a data feed whether delivered through SMS, e-mail or other means and as we all have multiple in boxes these days, it makes sense for multiple choices (outlook, g-mail, linked in, Facebook etc) to be presented to members.

Members are quite used to turning off these feeds if they find them intrusive and obviously many members would prefer to keep some accounts out of sight of employers

I hope that in our debate on this matter, we will concentrate as much  on holding the attention of employees as getting it.

About henry tapper

Founder of the Pension PlayPen,, partner of Stella, father of Olly . I am the Pension Plowman
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1 Response to Keeping pension scheme members engaged

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