One of my last posts I talked about your end of year checklist as an HR pro — some of those things touched your employees but this week I want to help you get thinking about something that we all know is on the mind of employees around the turn of the year — finances! If you’ve been in HR longer than a year, your head is already in the benefits space this time of you. However, your employees (or spouses/domestic partners – don’t forget about them) aren’t just thinking about their new benefits — they also have their finances on their mind. In my experience, the second most popular topic that employees ask about is related to their tax forms — what a great opportunity to leverage a communications campaign about retirement planning and options when the topic of money is already at hand. Here are a few thing to keep in mind while you put together your retirement communication plan.
The start of the new year is a good time to talk about retirement planning not only because tax season is coming up — but people are making goals and resolutions (saving money or spending less is the #3 New Year resolution) — its a great time to get people to think about their future retirement and how they need to save up for it. However, its also the start of the year so there is a ton of stuff going on. When thinking about the timing of your communications, make sure that its a wide enough window of time for people to HEAR, COMPREHEND, and ACT on the message — depending on your company, your communication structures, and culture, its likely that its longer than a week and but probably not longer than eight weeks (and you may want to repeat depending on your goals and the message). You’ll want to time messages and activities that coordinate well with other things that are going on in both HR and your company (don’t compete for the attention of your employees with other company messages or programs – plan accordingly). If possible, tie those message and activities to things that are meaningful to the employee — they will be more memorable and not so “random.”
ITS HEAVY STUFF
When talking about retirement, it can be easy to to get “too deep” really quick. Its not because your employees aren’t smart or don’t want the information, but sometimes as HR people, we talk in “HR speak” — and that can be overwhelming to non-HR people — especially on the topic of “retirement.” I recommend that you break it down and and define what does this mean to you and YOUR campaign so that you can scope it correctly and tie in the right messages and activities. Retirement is a lot more than *just* the 401K — so define it for your audience. What is YOUR campaign about and what do you want them to be able to take away by the end of it (the call to action). You are going to have employees and spouses on different parts of the spectrum. For a successful campaign you’ll want to be able to hit many people on all parts of the spectrum — for those just starting and those who are actively working on their “retirement” planning. Look at some of your benefit program and retirement program data to give you an idea of the “pockets” that you have. People also digest this kind of information in a number of different ways — some people are going to want to ready up on it on the internet while others may want to talk to someone about it — think of all they ways that you have to communicate with employees (and their spouses and/or domestic partners, notice how I keep dropping them in there, right 🙂 ) and have a variety of different ways to engage with them. Don’t forget if you have remote workers or people different shifts — make the time to reach out to all of them in the same ways.
TAKE PARTNERS, AFTER ALL YOU’RE THE HR PERSON
I think that this is one place where I see fellow HR people make mistakes. We’re getting the questions and while we know a good deal of detail on the topic of retirement (and certainly how any the plans or services that we offer work)but we’re not financial or tax planners. So partner up with someone who is. You can likely find someone at one of your brokers to partner with, or from your EAP — you may even consider a recommendation from CPAs at your company (you know how HR people hang out with other HR people — well accountants and tax pros do the same 🙂 ) Make sure that you have a vetting process for whoever you partner with if they do not come from a vendor that you already work with or your EAP. You partners may even be able to give you tips on some of the messages, activities, and media that you can use to best reach your people. Your partners can also probably help you craft your messages so that it people are associating their activities/tasks now with the lifestyle that they want to lead in retirement.
What do you think? How often do you talk about “retirement planning” to your employees? What things do you do to make it most effective?