Return to Insight and advice

Employee benefit communications: the power of face-to-face

We now live in a world where huge levels of communication happen online. If you need to ask someone a question, how often do you physically go and talk to them or pick up the phone? As opposed to emailing, texting or messaging via various apps?

As a more traditional and slightly more mature man, this sometimes irks me. Don’t get me wrong, I’m on LinkedIn and am a fan of the emoji. However, I also like to talk to people in a manner where I can hear their actual voice!

Of course, it’s not just social media. Much communication goes on within companies on a day-to-day basis, and much of it by email. It’s easier to sit there and type, and everyone has a nice audit trial. However, it also means that important messages can get lost in the immense traffic. If you’re emailing staff about your benefits, particularly your pension scheme, it can be extraordinarily difficult to get your message across successfully. For many employers, the workplace pension scheme is their largest cost after salaries, but it’s notoriously difficult to get staff to engage with it.

All of that said, there are some very good reasons why we rush to digital communications:

  • Trend – it’s the modern, popular way to communicate
  • Reach – the sheer number of people you can speak to is huge
  • Cost – it’s a low-cost way to reach a lot of people
  • Speed – you can get to your audience very quickly

Harnessing the power of face-to-face communications

I read an article the other day that said a face-to-face request was 34 times as likely to be successful than an email. People respond to people; a human action gets a human reaction. So, what is it about face-to-face communication that’s so important and valuable?

  • Build trust: we often call it ‘rapport building’ (what a horrible phrase), but having an actual conversation, and exchanging ideas or experiences helps people build relationships and trust.
  • Increased engagement: it’s far harder for someone to get distracted in a meeting; you normally have most of their attention (one-to-one, you’d hope to have 99% of it!)
  • Non-verbal cues: when you’re in front of someone you can gauge much quicker whether they understand what you’re talking about, if they’re enjoying talking to you, if they want to talk for longer etc.
  • Override misunderstandings: when you email someone they can read things the wrong way. Face-to-face you know the second you have lost someone (whether that’s misunderstanding, interest, or complexity). You can then rectify that situation immediately.

The complexities of pensions and financial planning

If you expect someone to make a financial decision, you must have their full attention, they must trust you to handle their money and should understand the action they’re undertaking. In terms of your workplace pension scheme, employees are not likely to proactively make decisions about how much to pay in or where to invest, if there are any misunderstandings.

This is why face-to-face trumps all other methods of communication when it comes to pensions. Group presentations can effectively deliver the overall message of what the scheme is and how it works. The group sessions can then be followed by one-to-one meetings, where an employee can ask all their confidential questions and talk about how it works for them in the context of their own financial journey. It also helps if people can pick up the phone and speak to a specialist. People procrastinate and think of questions after a meeting; give them the means to have those queries answered.

I need to stress that I’m not suggesting digital communications are a bad thing. There’s room for all tools in any communications programme, and digital platforms are extremely useful for timely updates, advertising presentations or meetings, reminding people about joining deadlines etc. Never mind the fact that a pension scheme website is without doubt the best means of hosting the huge amount of information involved, particularly investment fund information and calculators.

So use all the tools in your armoury to engage your employees in their benefits, but remember that sometimes the most traditional forms of communication can be the most effective.

This article was originally published on the REBA website – 4 September 2017

Further reading