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Guest Columnist
Reaching a Retirement Plan Remedy for Healthcare Employees Through Education and Communication
By
Jul 31, 2012 - 11:38:05 AM

(HealthNewsDigest.com) - Employees in today’s financial environment realize the importance of saving for the future and accumulating enough assets to take them comfortably through their retirement years – especially as the economic downturn of recent years has depleted retirement account balances for many. And in today’s financial climate, one of the only vehicles many have for saving is through their employer-sponsored retirement plans.

An increasing interest in retirement plan education and communication has surfaced among employees of healthcare organizations, as plan sponsors attempt to meet the needs of a diverse workforce characterized by varying degrees of financial literacy, a higher ratio of women workers and irregular work schedules.

Healthcare organizations face a number of challenges as they attempt to meet these needs. Providers who take this process a step further through high-touch models and one-on-one support are now meeting these evolving needs, as many seek to improve their employees’ retirement planning and saving strategies.

Findings from a recent study1 of healthcare professionals have revealed key retirement plan communication and education preferences that set this group apart from non-healthcare employees. Providers can benefit from understanding this research and the implications it has on their retirement plan offering as they reach employees in a more flexible, accessible and motivating manner.

Around-the-Clock Communication Programs
For an industry often characterized by varying work shifts, healthcare employees must balance competing priorities and busy schedules. At times, these individuals alternate between days off at a time and very long shifts, making it difficult to make time for retirement plan educational opportunities such as after-work meetings and seminars. In fact, the study revealed that these employees value one-on-one meetings with financial advisors during their regular work hours and prefer personal interaction when it comes to retirement plan education. The study showed that the majority of healthcare employees are less favorable towards retirement seminars conducted after hours, and that only 37 percent of healthcare employees found after-hours seminars extremely or very valuable, compared to 45 percent of non-healthcare employees.

For this reason, plan sponsors should be sensitive to the unique needs of these participants and consider offering educational opportunities during times that will fit within their schedules.

Holistic Approach to Retirement Plan Education and Communication Programs
A holistic approach to medicine is characterized by a cooperative relationship among all involved – doctors, patients and other care providers. While this approach is not universal, it can lead towards optimal results.

A similar approach is essential for retirement planning education, especially as healthcare professionals are less likely to spend their time in an office or in front of a computer. For this reason, web-based education delivered to healthcare organizations should complement other forms of communication including one-on-one support, mail, email and other online components. While technology has streamlined communication of retirement information – making it more accessible for many – it does not replace one-on-one communication and the value and impact a comprehensive retirement communication program can have among healthcare employees.

The majority of the healthcare employees surveyed interface with their plan providers by mail, email or online at least once in the past year, which is consistent with what the study shows of non-healthcare employees. However, this group prefers personal connections and are more likely to connect with retirement plan professionals by phone or face-to-face. They have a three percent lower instance of website usage compared to non-healthcare employees.

An effective call center is also a critical component of effective retirement plan communication and education program for healthcare organizations. The study shows that 51 percent of healthcare employees have called their retirement plan call center, compared to only 41 percent of non-healthcare employees. Interestingly, women are less likely to have interacted with their provider by email or through the provider’s website.

Healthcare employees must continue to have a call center option, even as web-based resources become more accessible. Call center representatives must be able to provide assistance with a wide range of retirement plan transactions and decisions. They should also be a part of an integrated retirement plan communication service team that includes onsite educators, benefits managers or financial professionals who work with participants one-on-one.

Keys to Success
Use the services provided by your retirement plan provider. Explore all the communication and education resources your plan provider offers and the various ways to reach participants—including by phone, in person, by email and on the Web.
Call on your influencers. Get executives and other centers of influence engaged and use them to promote and attend in-person meetings and serve as trusted resources to others in the organization.

Make it easy. Evaluate your ability to make one-on-one meetings available at varying times throughout the work day. Consider breakfast or lunch meetings, as opposed to after-hours meetings, or nighttime meetings for overnight staff schedules.
Communicate often on the importance of savings for retirement. Make information available on a regular and use employee newsletters, email, events and provider resources as a way to engage employees to think about savings not just at the time of enrollment.

Use call centers and the web. Be sure that call centers are integrated into your retirement plan education and communications offering. Although healthcare employees are less likely than their peers in other industries to go online for retirement plan information, it’s still their second most common resource. Maintain and enhance your retirement plan site as a means to communicate and educate effectively.

Healthcare professionals understand that communication is an integral part of patient care and the know the value of professional opinion. Offering comprehensive retirement plan communication and education programs that encompass all channels and all communications preferences of healthcare employees will ultimately help build a more robust retirement plan offering. It’s critical that healthcare employers choose a retirement plan provider that offers resources to support a more holistic model of retirement plan education – ultimately helping plan participants achieve their retirement planning goals.

Lincoln Financial Group is the marketing name for Lincoln National Corporation and its affiliates.

Affiliates are separately responsible for their own financial and contractual obligations.

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