Reaching Participants Effectively
When it comes to communicating with participants, meeting the letter of the rules and fulfilling the spirit behind them are not always the same thing. A recent blog post discusses ways to make communication with plan participants something effective and useful, rather than a rote function.
In “A Closer Look: Why Most Participant Communication Is Horribly Ineffective and What You Can Do About it,” a blog post appearing in Cammack Retirement’s “Top of Mind” blog, Michael Webb identifies the many ways in which participant communication falls short, and offers ideas on how to make it something that truly benefits participants.
So why can participant communications fail to achieve their intended purpose? Webb offers these reasons:
- participants don’t read the material the plan provides;
- participants who read plan communication often do not act on it;
- most plan participants are financially illiterate and content to be so;
- most plan participants do not have the wherewithal to make a significant investment in the plan, and therefore are not heavily engaged; and
- many plan administrators and employers do not tailor communications to the audience.
Webb suggests that this situation can be ameliorated by:
- making messages compelling and engaging;
- employing electronic media;
- using dollar amounts in reference to retirement readiness instead of percentages of income required in order to maintain a standard of living; and
- replicating communication styles that were effective in reaching and engaging employees regarding other matters.
Improving participant communication will do more than fulfill a requirement, Webb suggests; he posits that it is a way to better serve employees. “There is no doubt that effective communication that drives participant outcomes is a challenge, but the result is an employee population well-prepared for retirement,” he writes.