Helping employees prepare financially for their golden years is complicated. Conversations about these retirement plans, well, that can get even more labyrinthine. Whether you offer more than one type of plan or a one-size-fits-all plan — like 44% of small businesses do — it’s never an easy task getting employees on the same page when it comes to retirement benefits. Luckily, we specialize in employee benefits and retirement planning, so we have some tips and tricks to help your employees understand the extent of their packages. Here’s five ways to communicate retirement plans:

1) Offer one-on-one communication. Even your brightest employees might have trouble understanding all of the legalese in the employee benefit package they signed up for. The federally mandated health care under the Affordable Care Act and even FMLA are inundated with legal jargon that isn’t easily digested for everyone. Aside from the fringe benefits offered, make sure employees are aware what their packages entail, even the nuances between packages, so they can choose the one that best fits their lifestyle.

2) Encourage regular meetings with a consultant. The 401(k) employees enrolled in (or other retirement savings plan) fluctuates over time. It’s important to prompt at least annual meetings with a financial adviser. With only 26% of Americans holding a traditional notion of retirement, it’s crucial to help fill the gaps in retirement education. Likewise, you should reevaluate these retirement plans and how to communicate them on a regular basis. Through engagement surveys, you can determine how well your communication is working. Based on the results, you can maintain or adjust your retirement planning communications appropriately.

3) Take advantage of all communication channels. At the risk of beating a dead horse, there’s a deluge of millennials coming — if they haven’t already bombarded your workforce. They have different preferred communication methods than their Gen X or baby boomer elders. This necessitates a change, or at least a slight adaptation, to the changes in tech-devotion among employees. Shaun T. King, principal and director of Retirement Plan Services at Hickok & Boardman Retirement Solutions, said:

“Employers, advisers and retirement plan providers can work together to create an educational program that speaks to different employee groups through targeted communication using multichannel technology, whether it’s phone calls, emails, postcards, or one-on-one meetings.”

4) Create communication goals. What percentage of employees do you want to comprehend the retirement packages you offer? Obviously, 100%, but in reality, that most likely won’t happen. You can strive for better communication goals so you increase employee engagement in the benefits plans. According to a 2014 study from Towers Watson, companies have placed improving communication about retirement plans as a top priority over the next few years, with 78% saying they plan to use technology to reach this goal.

5) Develop retirement plan materials. As a tie-in to #3, there are different ways to talk about these retirement plans, and each deserve their own dedicated material. Whether that’s print, online interaction, video, or face-to-face communication, a variety of avenues to convey this pertinent material is important. In short, you need material that has the potential to engage everyone in whatever stage they are in in their employment story. New hires, tenured employees and those approaching retirement all have different expectations and urgencies regarding their retirement plan, so you need to approach each of these appropriately.

Also see:Enrollment incentives don’t work: Just build a better plan.”

With the constant influx of employees in and out of the organization, addressing retirement benefits and how you talk about them with your team needs constant revisiting. The way new employees process the information (and the information that’s relevant to them upon arrival) is different than veteran employees. Be it technology or the actual verbiage you use in communicating your retirement benefits, be sure to develop appropriate materials and set goals so your team has a steady flow of pertinent information. Follow these five tips, and you’ll learn how you can communicate retirement plans.

Olson, CEBS, CMFC, is managing partner at The Olson Group in Omaha, Neb, and EBA’s 2015 Employee Benefit Adviser of the Year. Reach him at

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