The employee engagement challenge

Do you know why women who experience heart attacks often feel acute pain in their elbow?

According to one American doctor on HealthTap, a site where people can submit medical questions, the answer is that "The pericardium is innervated by C3, 4, 5 (Phrenic nerve). There may be some neuronal connections to the intercostobrachial nerves."

That clears things up, right…?

The doctor’s explanation is a classic case of medical jargon. The medical profession is so high on the SMOG (Simple Measure of Gobbledegook) Scale that, according to the Royal College of General Practitioners, nearly half of patients don’t understand what their doctors tell them, the conditions they suffer from or how to take their medication.

Their doctors might as well be speaking Greek!

The problem is that we in the pensions industry don’t always appreciate that that’s how we come across to most people, too.

book READ: Pensions Jargon Buster!

jargon image-1.jpg

We tend to pepper our writing and employee engagement with impenetrable jargon, from hundreds of acronyms (‘PPP’, ‘LISA’, ‘GMP’, ‘SIPP’) through to terms like ‘Flexible drawdown’ and ‘entitled worker’.

We might understand them – but nobody else does. Imagine being a regular Joe, receiving a letter from your company about your DB pension that mentions an uncrystallised pension fund or hybrid products.

“C3, 4, 5 (Phrenic nerve)” would mean just as much.

Sometimes I don’t understand the rarer terms myself. The language we use is a serious barrier to financial literacy and stops people making well-informed, sensible financial decisions.

lightbulbDid you know...
                   According to Mintel, 56% of people say that financial jargon stops them taking                         an interest in their savings

As an industry, this is a serious challenge – and I know from personal experience how difficult it is to break out of these patterns.

Concise communications

A few years ago, we submitted some of our publications for the Crystal Mark, the Plain English Campaign’s seal of approval. They made some tweaks to our brochures and told us they were now in plain English.

I can honestly say that they were not much improved. The sentences were shorter, the terms all explained. But it was still our language and our way of thinking, translated into something slightly less intimidating.

We still weren’t writing about pensions in a way that regular people could immediately relate to.

I’ll tell you what has worked for us, though.

We give a lot of our ‘pensions writing’ to people from outside the industry. Our marketing director, for example, does not have a pensions background at all. Nor do several of our writers.

We’ve found that, because they have had to make an effort to understand pensions themselves, they can explain pensions in a way that makes sense to laymen. They don’t get drawn into jargon because it is gobbledygook for them, too. They use real-world examples and analogies to bring pensions to life, because that’s how they make sense of pensions themselves.

It took us several years to get right.

But it doesn’t have to take you that long – because we’ve done it all for you.

Energise your employee engagement

That’s why I believe that we need to start talking to our employees about money, pensions and savings in general in an entirely new way – one that is super-practical.

And that’s why we’ve started producing a magazine for your employees about money and savings, all of which relates back to real life. The aim is to give people the tools to make better financial decisions – not just lecture them about it.

Check out one of our recent articles.

And if you’d like to discuss how your employees can get their hands on one of these magazines,


...just hit ‘reply’


PS About the heart attack pain in the elbow. It’s a case of referred pain. 

That means that when the heart attack starts, your heart sends signals of pain to your spinal cord, and from there to your brain. Sometimes, because the nerves from your arm also travel up the spinal cord, the brain mixes up these signals. It thinks that pain that originated in your heart really comes from your arm.


Posted by Steve Butler

Topics: Employee Engagement

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