We’re delighted to welcome our panel of senior HR directors to the Punter Southall Aspire blog for a third series to share their practical experience delivering pensions programmes to thousands of members. 

Today, they share their opinion about the key elements for a good employee engagement campaign for pensions:

“Keep the momentum going” 

“Most important is consistency of message. Don’t just do a pensions piece once a year, keep the momentum going.

“Sometimes our comms are directed at members, other times at new members, but either way we are talking to everyone the whole time.

“Second, you want to keep your messaging simple. People tend to glaze over when you talk about pensions. There are a lot of acronyms that people don’t understand, so you need to keep it short and straightforward.

“Try to show people the bigger picture. I read a stat that 70% of people don’t know what the state pension is or what they’d get. Start with that basic education, and ask people whether they could live on what they are currently projected to receive.

bookREAD: Employee Engagement Ideas 
The 5-Step Journey


“When the state pension age increased, we did a piece on that, asking people whether they want to work until 70 and whether they could cover the gap between their retirement age and when the state pension begins.

“Looking at things in the news is a really good ‘in’ to do a piece. You have to be fairly agile but when people are seeing items about pensions in the news they want to know what it means. Another example was the triple lock last year. People didn’t know what it meant but then we explained it in our comms. If it is already in people’s consciousness they tend to be more open to reading about it…”

 Penny Hathaway, HR Reward Manager, THB Group 

“Don’t provide the same comms to everyone”

“Your comms have to be easily understood. Somebody who doesn’t have any real financial training or general interest in how numbers work should be able to read your comms, whether it’s in hard copy or on your website, and ‘get’ why it’s important. They should understand immediately whether they need to take action.

“However, beyond the basic information, have more detail for those who are interested. You’ll have people who just want to know that for every pound they put in, they’ll get X out, and others who want more information about more complex options. You need information at two levels, one that everyone can understand and one to dig down deeper. You can do this on your website, allowing people to click through for more information. 

“It also helps if your comms are well-targeted. Don’t provide the same comms to everyone but base it on people’s ages. People in their 30s and 40s will need quite different information than people in their 50s and 60s, and you can illustrate your points differently too, because they have different realities. Talking to people in their 30s about buying things for their grandchildren won’t be effective if they are busy buying uniform for their kids, but it might work well for people closer to retirement.”

Morag Bailey, HR Director, Ardo

“Avoid financial gobbledegook”

“The key is to keep everything simple. You have to talk about pensions in a way people can grasp and understand immediately. More often than not, this involves using pictures where you can. Not because people don’t understand the words, but because people don’t have too much time to spend on understanding pensions, so you want to put across your message in a way that sticks. Pictures help you avoid financial gobbledegook. 

“Where you are writing, use straightforward language. Don’t talk down to people but explain every term. 

“I also don’t believe in preaching to people and telling them what to do. Just tell them, here’s what’s happening and here are the choices you need to make. Sometimes I think we underestimate the savviness of our workforce. When they want and need to know about their pensions, we can point them in the right direction, but we don’t need to tell people what to do.”

Head of HR, food company

“The personal touch is important” 

“The best engagement comes when you are really consistent and keep pensions in people’s minds constantly. We use a lot of email because we have staff spread out throughout the country on different sites. 

“We also advertise widely an advice line that staff can use if they have queries on pensions. We find that the personal touch is important. We want to help people get advice that’s really relevant and personal to them, so we have proactive advisors and encourage 1-2-1s with our advisors when they are on site.  

“We are prepared to support that for our people, to make sure that they’re comfortable with the advice they’re getting, and know that their advisors are looking out for their best interests. 

“We find that when their pensions are working well, that helps with engagement."

Sally Cheeseman, HR Manager, Inspectorate International

“We discuss pensions through lunch-and-learn” 

“This is an area where we could do more. At the moment, we enrol our staff into a pension scheme and then send them an annual statement and information from the pensions provider. We also talk to them about pensions at induction and then perhaps once or twice a year through lunch-and-learn. 

“They tend to become more engaged when closer to retirement, as our provider contacts them 7 years beforehand to discuss their funds. 

“In the future, I’d like to have more of a consistent approach, and to have advisors on our site regularly so people can book appointments to discuss their own pensions in a personal way.”

Roanne Gibbs, Head of HR, BMS

Posted by John Buttress

Topics: HR Panel

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