Category Archives: Communications

Communicating a defined benefit plan conversion

Milliman consultants assisted one particular multiemployer defined benefit plan’s transition to a stabilized Milliman Sustainable Income Plan™ (SIP), formerly known as the variable annuity pension plan (VAPP). The conversion required a communication strategy conveying the new plan’s design to participants. In this article, Jessica Gonchar describes how the firm implemented an employee communications campaign explaining the basic principles of a SIP and how it differs from the prior plan.

Milliman Hangout: Milliman Actuarial Retirement Calculator™ (MARC™)

The Milliman Actuarial Retirement Calculator (MARC) is a pension administration and communication tool for pension plan sponsors. The system offers data storage, benefit calculation, correspondence management, a participant website, and more.

In this video, Milliman’s Kevin Hicks explains some of MARC’s benefits. He also showcases MARC’s participant website.

To learn more about MARC, click here.

Central States ruling highlights the importance of communication

tenBroek_HeidiOn May 6, the U.S. Department of the Treasury denied the application of the Central States, Southeast and Southwest Areas (Central States) pension plan for benefit suspensions. According to Treasury, the plan’s proposal was fundamentally flawed in three ways. The first two reasons Treasury gave were that the proposed benefit suspensions were “not reasonably estimated to allow the plan to avoid insolvency” and were “not equitably distributed” (the plan did not explain to Treasury’s satisfaction the variations in the treatment of different classes of participants).

Poor communication is the third way the plan’s proposal failed to satisfy the requirements. According to Treasury, the plan’s notices to participants were “not written in a manner so as to be understood by the average plan participant.” Treasury explains:

• “The notices extensively use technical language without adequate explanation”
• “Critical terms used in the notices are not defined in the notices but only by cross-reference to other documents (e.g., the plan document and the rehabilitation plan document)”
• “The cross-referenced definitions in those other documents are not understandable to the average plan participant”

Few pension plans are getting the kind of attention that’s being paid to Central States. But many plans looking to the possibility of benefit suspensions in the future can take this opportunity to learn from Treasury’s issues with Central States’s application. Remember that good participant communications need to be included in your calculations.

For more perspective, read Tim Connor’s article “Central States Pension Plan and the Multiemployer Pension Reform Act.”

Five ways to motivate Millennial action through employee communication

Gonchar-JessicaI know what you’re thinking: “Ugh, not another Millennial article.” But stay with me for a minute. As a Millennial myself, I have some insight on this generation.

Everyone knows that Millennials work differently than other generations, but actually motivating us to do something can be difficult, especially if you use the same communication you’ve always used. We are constantly bombarded with information from social media, texting, and friends, all of which compete for our limited time, so a long email about benefit changes likely won’t make the cut.

We now comprise over one-third of the workforce and are projected to be a majority by 2020, so it’s more essential than ever to understand what motivates us.

Whether you want to encourage us to enroll in a high-deductible health plan, contribute more to our 401(k) plans, or just get your message through the noise, here are five easy communication techniques you can use to motivate even the most indifferent Millennials.

1. Personalize it
Generic communication, as simple and cost-effective as it may be, is not the most effective way to get through to any employee, let alone Millennials. But personalized information is valuable information. A brochure touting the importance of contributing 1% to a retirement plan is not as powerful as a postcard projecting how much money I could save if I increased my 401(k) contributions by 1%.

2. Make it convenient
Making things quick and easy is key to getting through to my generation. For example, conveniences such as single sign-on and embedded links make a low-priority task like updating an address effortless and more likely to happen.

3. Go mobile
It’s no secret that we love our phones. Mobile communication provides a handy platform where information tends to be read within three minutes of delivery. Mobile communication also lets us access information where and when we want it, and supports real-time updates. Not everyone wants work notifications on their phone, but providing the option allows us more choice in the type of communication we want and increases the likelihood we’ll read it.

4. Keep it compelling
Another way to break through the noise is to make your message compelling and relevant. Remember, you’re competing against technology that is exceptionally good at monopolizing our attention. Emphasize why the communication is relevant to us. Is there a cash incentive for taking an employee survey? Will this program benefit our health in the long run?

5. Tell a story
Stories can be a powerful communication tool to engage and connect with the reader. Instead of sending an email that simply lists the benefits of enrolling in a flexible spending account, tell a story of an employee who has used the account with specific examples of what can be purchased pretax and how it saved her money.

It’s clear that Millennials want and need communication that is personalized, convenient, and mobile-friendly so we can engage with it when and where we want, compelling so we know why it’s important, and formatted in an interesting way. Using these five principles can help ensure you reach your ever growing Millennial workforce.

Want to read more? Check out this article on communicating across all of the generations in the workplace.

Milliman’s HR Communication Practice wins 2016 Graphis, 2015 Marcom, and 2015 HOW In-House Design Awards

Milliman today announced that it was recently honored with the following international communication awards:

• “The Key Ingredient” Red Robin Non-Saver Campaign: 2015 Marcom Platinum Award, Graphis 2016 Merit Award, 2015 HOW In-House Design Merit Award
• “The Importance of Diversification – PlanAhead for Retirement”: 2015 Marcom Gold Award
• “Get A Tax Break” motion graphic video: 2015 Marcom Award
• “Happy Holidays” e-card: Graphis 2016 Merit Award, 2015 Marcom Award

The winning materials were created by the Dallas-based team of senior communication consultants, writers, graphic designers, and web experts. Milliman delivers award-winning communication services to millions of employees across the United States. Services range from videos, interactive modelers, and websites to meeting services, print, and mobile.

Our clients hire us to make their messages clear to their employees, to cut through the clutter, to change attitudes, and to drive behavior change. Individual client results and statistics confirm the success of our ongoing work, but these awards are especially meaningful because they validate the level of excellence we bring to our clients from an international perspective.

For more information about Graphis, Marcom, and HOW awards, visit:,, and

Retirement plan enrollment considerations

Employers are constantly seeking new ways to get employees enrolled in their retirement plans. This Plan Adviser article quotes Milliman’s Gerald Erickson and Jinnie Olson discussing how automatic plan designs and targeted communication strategies can affect the enrollment of participants especially Millennials.

Here is an excerpt:

When it comes to automatic plan design, says Gerald Erickson, a principal at Milliman Inc. in Minneapolis, the adviser community obviously supports these features. Still, it is important to acknowledge that while popular opinion claims auto plans are the next logical step in improving participant outcomes, “from a plan sponsor and an administrator/recordkeeper perspective, automatic plans are not easy to administrate.”

There’s a lot that goes on behind the scenes, he says, and that may include some mistakes. “I think it’s important for people to understand that it’s not as easy as just getting people to automatically go in the plan and think that’s the end of it. It does require a lot of work from the plan sponsor side, and it does require a lot of work from the recordkeeping/administrator side.”

Plan advisers should be wary of potential complications when designing their automatic features. Most retirement plan advisers are “looking at what makes the biggest impact in getting people in the plan,” Erickson says, which for Millennials may lead them to look at Roth options. “If you add a Roth feature to the plan,” he points out, Millennials that are in a lower tax bracket now can essentially “marginalize their tax hit by taking advantage of the tax-free distribution on the back end.”

Speaking for Millennials, Olson says, “We’re really the first generation that’s going to have to fund our own retirement, rather than relying on the typical defined benefit [DB] plan that’s losing popularity, and it can be really intimidating for people to hang onto enrollment packets for a year while you try to meet the eligibility requirements.”

…Advisers can help make an overwhelming amount of information more accessible for all participants, Olson says. “You want to be able to give that information to everybody but in a way that everyone has the opportunity to get through it and understand what it is,” she says. “Rather than a 15-page enrollment packet, maybe you pare it down to two pages, summarizing everything, but then give them the opportunity to look into it more later.”