September 2002 NewsLetter, "Teaching the Value of Multiemployer Benefits"
If participants do not understand their benefits or recognize their worth, they will not value the benefits - no matter how good they are. When it comes to participant appreciation and perceived value of a benefits program, communication can be just as important as plan design. Sponsors of multiemployer funds should, therefore, make sure that their communications teach the value of plan benefits.
Summary plan descriptions (SPDs) are participants' primary source of benefits information. When drafting and designing an SPD, plan sponsors should give careful consideration both to content and clarity. Sponsors should also take into account the following elements:
- Consistency, and
- "Brand" identity.
Sponsors might consider offering a Web-based SPD as an alternative or supplement to the printed document because:
- The ease of online searches promotes self-service and saves time for fund office staff,
- Navigational flexibility accommodates individual preferences for finding information, and
- Links and other dynamic features can deepen understanding of the plan.
To complement the SPD, plan sponsors should consider using a personalized benefit statement, which can "speak" directly to participants and their specific needs.