Hello PPMA friends
What memories do you have of the Jubilee Jamboree? How many of you had a good guffaw on hearing Jimmy Carr’s advice about saving for a pension otherwise you’ll be working till you’re 86! Did you also think “I know I have a good pension as I’m in a public sector scheme”?
At the PPMA seminar in April I was musing on the complete focus we in HR have at the moment on automatic enrolment. We are trying to grasp it and battle through the jargon knowing that none have gone before and so no-one really knows how it will pan out. We are single minded in our desire to overcome the beast of automatic enrolment and thus are not taking account of other changes which impact our pension schemes. This focus on the negative aspects of auto enrolment is understandable. However, it does not allow us the opportunity to step back and think about why we are doing it and what added value we can gain from it.
This thought returned when I was at the CIPD reward conference in May listening to speakers talk about whether the private or the public sector was getting on board quicker with automatic enrolment. My mind drifted and I thought of the challenges we face in some parts of the public sector to increase the take up of our pension schemes. In some organisations new employees are already ‘auto enrolled’ when they start with their employers and have to opt out rather than opt in. Some of us provide total reward statements which is another opportunity to encourage people to opt back in or to increase saving. So what new opportunities does automatic enrolment provide us?
We heard at the PPMA seminar about the recent work undertaken on employee engagement. The challenge at present, with major change to working practices and continuing economic uncertainty, to motivate and encourage our staff is something which impacts every public sector HR team. Now more than ever we need effective employee engagement.
Automatic enrolment provides us with just such an opportunity. It requires close working between HR, Payroll, Finance, Pensions, ICT, Communications, unions and staff representatives. Bringing all this resource and expertise together just to meet the requirements of automatic enrolment seems somewhat short sighted. One step further and we can link in our preparations for the new schemes which are scheduled to be implemented in 2014 and 2015. Two steps further and we can develop really effective and innovative employee engagement initiatives. Strategies which would also ensure that more people joined and remained in our pension schemes and were motivated about providing public services within the public sector.
The key to effective employee engagement around pensions is HR teams themselves understanding what’s on offer. No easy thing considering that many of us work with more than one pension scheme and those schemes have already been shaken up in recent years. However, we all work with pension administrators who are always happy to talk about their schemes and many can do so in our language!
Effective communication is about understanding your message and your audience and tailoring communications to the audience, often on an individual level. Effective communication is two-way. As well as providing employees with information you need to find out what your employees appreciate and what makes you, as an employer, stand out from the crowd. This needn’t be onerous or costly. Make use of your intranet, your website, facebook, twitter, you tube and communicate in interesting and understandable ways.
So why not spend sometime looking at the changes happening with your pension schemes and communicating these positively to your colleagues. There’s a lot going on – from tiered contributions which were introduced in April for most public sector schemes to the LGPS ‘big ticket’ items which were announced last week. Much of this information can be found on our website and via our pension network which is open to all. Next time someone mentions pensions you too may be able to think back to Jimmy Carr’s comment with a broad smile.
PPMA Pensions Policy Lead