· Features

Benefits Case Study: 02 - Pensions planning made simple

A slick interactive web tool is giving O2 staff the chance to 'test drive' their pension options.

Hits doubled after a major mail-out and new joiner numbers are also up.

How it works

When informing its 12,000 UK staff of a new pension offering, O2 wanted to stay true to its brand values of being open and clear, so an integrated communication plan, combining personalised direct mail and a web 'modeller', was developed to explain the options.

In May 2009 a letter explained the changes and directed staff to a special website, while in October a membership drive called employees to action with a fast-track enrolment form, signing staff up to a default option. O2 wanted its retail staff, call centre teams and technical people to understand the investments open to them so they could make informed decisions that would leave them feeling more secure, and more engaged with O2 as an employer.

Who benefits

All UK staff can now choose between many different investment options under three umbrella types: Lifestyle, where contributions are invested in funds selected by the trustee and adjusted closer to retirement; Selfstyle, which allows employees to choose which funds they want to invest in, giving them more freedom to plan their own investment strategy, for instance taking more risk if they want to do so; and the default O2 scheme, which is currently called Balanced Lifestyle - a 'halfway' option.

O2 worked with Sussex-based Caburn Hope to deliver both the communication and the new-look website. The user-friendly 'contributions modeller' and 'interactive slider' show the financial impact of different choices.

What it delivers

The number of hits on www.o2pensions.co.uk more than doubled, from an average of 9,000 a month to nearly 20,000, in the month following the direct mail-out last May. Enrolment for 2009 easily beat previous years, thanks to the October drive.

As an employer, O2 says it focuses on the employee experience, aiming to make sure staff understand the benefits on offer to them and have access to uncomplicated information as and when they need it. The upbeat O2 branding, informal tone of voice and simple graphics on the website reflect the wider company values of ease and approachability, and make the sometimes daunting task of pension planning a little bit easier for employees.

The HR view

Joanna Christie, UK pensions manager at O2, says raising the profile of pensions has been tough, especially when trying to reach younger employees in stores or call centres - many of whom might be part-time and not be the main family breadwinner.

"Pensions aren't a priority for everyone, but it's vital people know there are great benefits to be had, with O2 matching what employees pay in, up to 10% of salary," says Christie. She sees the fact that a tenth of staff made changes as extremely encouraging.

"Our annual enrolment exercise, when we work hard to get people interested in pensions, normally only delivers a 5% take-up, so what we have done here is a major achievement," says Christie. "We set out to let people know about the changes we were making with pensions, and to give them more choice and an easier way to view their options.

"The feedback has been really positive, and the figures speak for themselves, so I feel we've achieved our goal."

The employee view

Amit Saluja, a senior tax manager within O2's finance team in Slough, used the form mailed out in October last year. He was particularly impressed with the default option which made it so simple to sign up. "I know from experience how onerous it can be, choosing the right fund, deciding what contributions you want to make, and filling in endless forms," says Saluja. "This fast-track form already had my details on it. All I had to do was sign it and send it back to HR, and I was automatically set up with the 4% contribution on the Balanced Lifestyle fund. Then I had time to go online and look at the scheme in a bit more depth, and I've since increased my contributions, as I realised what I could afford."

Saluja says the clearly set-out information in the mail-outs have helped him understand exactly what was on offer. "It takes time to digest the information about the scheme, and realise that it's well worth doing, as O2 will match up to 10% salary contributions," he says. "For me the speed and ease of getting set up was really helpful."