My first job

In one of my first jobs after university, the company used to stock the kitchen with healthy food. Every Monday morning, we’d come in to find fresh fruit and non-sugary breakfast cereals. Of course now I’d love it, but back then, a good snack consisted of chocolate and crisps. And my colleagues felt the same way. By Friday, some unlucky soul had to throw out the rotting fruit, while boxes of cereal slowly piled up in the cupboards.

Eventually, the company put an end to the perk. While of course they wanted to help their employees be healthy, the main reason they’d started offering the food was to increase their appeal as a good employer. If their people didn’t appreciate the benefit, it was a waste of money.

Workplace pensions are, similarly, a benefit that is often under-appreciated. Over recent years, I’ve seen even generous workplace pension schemes suffer from high opt-out levels. I recall one case in particular, where the employer contributions were far above the national average, but employees routinely gave up their pension benefit in exchange for a few extra days of annual leave. Compared to summer holidays, retirement seemed remote.

Spending heavily

Scenarios like this, when our employees don’t engage with or understand the value of their workplace pension scheme, should make alarm bells ring. Your company is spending heavily to provide that benefit to your people. And while workplace pensions should help your employees retire comfortably, they must also directly help you as the employer.

They should incentivise good people to stay on with you. They should make you attractive to potential talent and enhance your reputation. And they should be seen as very much part of your brand and employer proposition. If employees don’t see their pension as a benefit, it can never achieve those things. That is not money well spent. It’s no different to the fresh fruit provided by my former employer, except in scale.

So what’s to be done? You can’t stop offering workplace pensions as a benefit (nor should you, if you care about your employees). But you can talk regularly to your staff about the pension scheme you offer, in an engaging, inclusive and innovative way.

Pension communications

When you are bogged down with more immediate problems, pension communications (comms) can feel tedious or fall down the to-do list. But when you spend huge amounts of money on pensions, it’s vital to get value out of it. You quite literally can’t afford not to do the comms.

Take the company I mentioned before, which had employees voluntarily giving up one of the most generous pensions in the UK. When they realised the extent of the problem, they brought us in to run 30 presentations across their two main sites, to engage their people about the scheme.

We gave some context to show just how good their pension was compared to industry averages. Afterwards, people could have individual meetings to discuss their own pensions. Over the following year personal feedback, exit interviews and the immediate drop in requests to give up pension benefits all showed that their people had become much more appreciative of their workplace pension scheme.

Benefit from your benefits

Employee surveys showed people were genuinely grateful to their employer, and it made them think twice about moving to a new company, increasing retention and strengthening their employer brand.

The company was finally getting the benefit of its own benefits.


Posted by Steve Butler

Topics: Employee Communication

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