The pandemic has had a host of effects, one of which is an uptick in voluntary early retirements. In a recent analysis, two communication consultants offer some tips on running a voluntary early retirement program.
In a case study about communicating such a program, two consultants at Milliman—Heidi tenBroek, Principal, Consultant, Employee Communication, and Sharon Stocker, Employee Communications Consultant—discuss how a client handled such a program.
The employer in question had approximately 120 plan participants and experienced financial difficulty as a result of the pandemic. It decided to address those challenges by instituting a voluntary retirement program rather than a 10% reduction in staff size. But this, too, posed challenges, including getting the necessary communication and materials ready quickly and remaining in compliance with processes and protocols that respect employee confidentiality and privacy.
Materials and information provided in conjunction with the early retirement program included:
- an announcement to leadership;
- an email to managers;
- brief articles for the company intranet;
- personalized election packets for eligible employees, including a severance plan and participation agreement prepared by legal counsel;
- a script for call center representatives;
- follow-up reminder emails; and
- a web modeling tool for those considering retirement under the pension plan.
tenBroek and Stocker say that the communications strategy included:
- personalized dollar amounts;
- personal payout details;
- dollar amounts for accrued sick leave and/or vacation leave payouts;
- summaries of total payouts;
- communications customized to make sure they are appropriate to an employee’s circumstances;
- making sure that communications were secure in order to protect data; and
- frequent communications in order to make it possible to meet a short timeline and ensure rapid turnarounds.
tenBroek and Stocker add that the employer also:
- simplified the election process by including clear and simple instructions and self-addressed stamped envelopes;
- turned to its service provider to handle receiving and tracking returned forms and conducting follow-up communications; and
- set up support systems, including web-based tools and human resources to provide personal assistance.
The results, say tenBroek and Stocker, were that 35% of the plan participants accepted the early retirement offer. Furthermore, the employees were happy with the communications and the processes and the employer was happy with the results.