Communication is good, isn't it? Why employers need to do more of it

Nobel Prize winner and playwright George Bernard Shaw once said: "The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that is has taken place."


Now enter phrases such as "employees are sent a benefit statement annually", "we have a staff handbook", or "we did a roadshow a couple of years back". All create an illusion that communication has, may or did take place at some point.

In today's world we move at an incredible pace, consuming data in ways we never dreamed imaginable a number of years ago. News on the tube, bank account balances by text message, turning up the heating at home while in the car.. How do we possibly get benefits communication right in the modern world? Why do we need to ensure we do? 

Ensuring employees understand

The workplace is being very firmly situated at the centre of financial education delivery, and this starts with making sure your employees understand what you are giving them.

After all, the benefits you provide are costing you more than ever. Auto enrolment contributions are increasing, medical inflation is sending those premiums north. It's vital you make sure that you are getting the bang for your buck that your spending deserves. 

Once employees engage in what you are offering them, they will more receptive to understanding what it all means - how it all fits together - thereby making your benefits a central part of their future, whatever that may bring.

So how? What we do know is that there is no one definitive answer to that. Various access points are going to mean that people can choose their own way in. The Mattioli Woods Employee Benefit Insight Report, which we have just published, gives us some interesting food for thought.

Employers are missing a trick

For instance, 72% of employers do not use technology to communicate details of their benefits. That's an amazing number and clearly reflective of the companies who took part in our study, some 2,600 employers, across all sectors and geography in the UK.

It is clear that fintech is moving at a pace, and there are many platforms available to employers, but most of them do not do everything employers require. So is this holding the market back?

Access through PC, tablet and phone will come to all. Proactive platforms that remind, inform and engage employees. while having their information available in a simple, understandable format, will lead the way.

What's currently used is clearly a combination of handbooks, induction packs and individualised personal letters which, at 39%, is still the most popular communication type with employers. They are a one-way communication that doesn't give employees scope to ask questions, yet as part of a wider communication strategy and some facetime with advisers they evidently are still used by many employers.

George Bernard Shaw also said: "Beware of false knowledge; it is more dangerous than ignorance."

That's the next problem. Ignorance of the issue can be identifiable and is sortable. A misunderstanding or false impression created through the communication can be more damaging, leading to inactivity and inertia. That's why we are passionate believers in the need for advice to compliment the communication, and Government policy is now making that more possible than ever. 

42% of employers are not regularly communicating with employees on benefits. To change that, the starting point is to create a budget to enable you to do so.

When it comes to your benefits communication, think, plan, execute and review. Engagement should follow. 

Alan Fergusson is employee benefits director at Mattioli Woods.

This article was provided by Mattioli Woods.

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