How to build an inclusive pensions comms strategy

Buck’s Mark Pemberthy provides insights into different learning preferences among the sector

clock • 4 min read
Buck benefits consulting leader Mark Pemberthy

Buck benefits consulting leader Mark Pemberthy

For many people, retirement is a little abstract and planning for it can be imposing.

The idea of leaving work and depending on your savings feels so distant that it is easy to put off exploring pension saving, options. This is hardly an ideal situation, especially since the growing reliance on defined contribution pensions means that over time more and more employees risk financial uncertainty in their autumn years if they do not engage in planning for their future.

Employers and pension schemes can help by designing inclusive communications strategies that grab employees' attention while also reflecting their diverse needs. Creating an engaging message isn't always easy, but it is important to cut through the noise and inspire action.

Embracing diversity

So, where to start? Sometimes, it's important to look at where you are before you begin a journey. An inclusive culture is integral to being able to create authentic inclusive communications, and building diverse teams is an important foundation. Research indicates that more diverse teams are more creative, make better decisions and contribute to better financial performance.

From a pension perspective, The Pensions Regulator's director of regulatory policy, analysis and advice Louise Davey went as far as to say that "harnessing diverse views can help pension scheme governing bodies weigh issues in more detail and openly consider aspects important to those impacted by their decisions". The takeaway is clear: inclusive communications begin with inclusive teams.

Different stages of life

The long-term nature of retirement planning means that timing is a key consideration. A successful communication strategy will acknowledge that members are at different stages of their lives and careers and recognise that the perceived importance of pension saving will vary accordingly.

For example, employees who are closer to retirement may have a heightened awareness of their pension and the associated benefits already, whereas younger employees will invariably consider retirement planning in the context of other shorter term financial objectives. An inclusive communications strategy should reflect these different circumstances and position the core messages in ways which will be relevant to the entire audience.

Tailored communications

Making it personal makes it matter. Workplace pension communication audiences tend to be very broad so having an impact on everyone with a single communication approach is almost impossible. Considering a segmented strategy can improve the impact, adapting the approach by considering the different needs, values, interests, and demographics of the audience.

For maximum effectiveness take time to understand the audience and any specific barriers they may have to engagement, this may be from feedback from previous communication or surveys. Considerations may include tone of voice, avoiding gendered language and using channels that best fit the communication preferences of the audience, including audio and visual options alongside digital and print.

It is estimated by the Local Government Association that up to one in seven people are neurodivergent, and whilst no two people are the same, approaches which are clear, literal and use dyslexia-friendly fonts and backgrounds can be helpful.

A picture can speak a thousand words so the careful use of photos, pictures, symbols, and captions can help increase impact and engagement for everyone.

Knowledge is power

Lack of confidence and understanding can be a major barrier to engagement, and this is relevant to financial topics generally and pensions specifically.

The pension world is littered with jargon, acronyms, and complexity. Good communication can deal with some of these issues; however, it is worth considering whether additional information or education would be valuable in helping the audience get the maximum benefit from the communication strategy.

An inclusive strategy could include access to additional education materials to help build knowledge, understanding and confidence in the fundamental aspects of pensions, providing a strong foundation for communications which inspire and empower members to take control of their future.

The takeaway

When designing an inclusive communications strategy for pensions, the objective must be to make a personal connection with the member. If an employee's engagement with their pension plan is low, it's because there is a barrier stooping effective engagement. Understanding the audience, translating their needs and preferences into the communication strategy is key, alongside access to educational materials that help increase confidence and core knowledge. Get this right and you will cut through the noise and inspire your members to take control of their future.

Mark Pemberthy is benefits consulting leader at Buck


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