In virtual meetings with an informational intention, the how may also need to include “how long.” Some experts suggest providing attendees with time in between topics to allow attendees to process the information or ask questions. This may be where virtual meetings are more beneficial than in person meetings.
By now, “this could have been an email” is such a common joke that it’s not funny anymore. In fact, in one survey found that “managers … reported 83% of the meetings on their calendars were unproductive.” Meeting overload was common pre-pandemic, but now there’s a new element – not only do employees ask if a meeting needs to happen at all, but if it does happen, whether it needs to be live or virtual. In the post-pandemic world, “our meeting culture has shifted from performance to pragmatism.” For Plan Sponsors who hold in person meetings for benefits information, contemplating the current culture around meetings could be helpful.
Benefits and retirement information often falls into the category of things that are handled better in a meeting than in an email. Employees often can lose track of benefits details and drown in the “alphabet soup” of special savings accounts, like HSAs and FSAs. Meetings, especially virtual ones, can help avoid that. And, employees often have enough things in common that they may have common questions. We’ve addressed common problems and proposed solutions with meetings in previous articles aimed at our financial advisors. As we said there, those common problems include the who, how and why. “The ‘who’ includes inviting the wrong people. The ‘how’ includes how information is presented and whether that information is participatory or not. The ‘why’ includes a lack of purpose to a meeting or a feeling by attendees that they have been called to a meeting simply to have a meeting.” To keep from having employees feel that a benefits meeting is a waste of time, plan sponsors may want to ensure that all the folks needed to answer questions are present. For some plan sponsors, the scheduling ease that virtual meetings provide may ensure that the right folks can be present. Virtual meetings may also make multiple sessions or times an option.
In addition to ensuring all the necessary “who”s are present, plan sponsors will want to make sure the “how” is also appropriate. That means manner that the meeting is conducted in is appropriate. Common complaints about meetings usually center on the fact that meetings are too much theory, not enough practical. Employees also often complain that human resource managers aren’t prepared for heated discussions. The saying “there is no bad weather, only bad clothing” may apply to hiking and outdoor sports, but a corollary of it applies to meetings as well. There is no bad feedback, only the kind to which are unprepared. If you anticipate a storm brewing about benefits changes, ensure that you are prepared for it. This may also be handled by the materials disseminated prior to the meeting – instead of just supplying new benefits, plan sponsors may want to include a brief discussion of why the benefits were changed, for example.
Another part of the “how” involves the presentation of the meetings. As we noted in the past, choose a presentation method that matches the level of interaction sought from employees. “Whenever possible choose whiteboards over PowerPoint slides. A white board collects group thoughts, shows where the meeting has been and indicates topics for later discussion. It’s a collaborative tool. PowerPoint, on the other hand, is a passive information system. Attendees sit while others show slides to them.” We covered the alternatives to PowerPoint back in July of 2019.
In virtual meetings with an informational intention, the how may also need to include “how long.” Some experts suggest providing attendees with time in between topics to allow attendees to process the information or ask questions. This may be where virtual meetings are more beneficial than in person meetings. Employees may be more willing to ask questions virtually than in person, especially on topics.
Finally, plan sponsors presenting benefits meetings may want to ensure that the “why” of the meeting is crystal clear. Is the meeting to solicit feedback about options? Is it to educate employees about why benefits have been changed? Is it to help employees choose among new or existing benefits? Being clear about the purpose will help attendees feel like a meeting is “staying on course.” Being clear about the “why” could come by labeling a meeting as “informational” or “working” to help employees understand if feedback is welcomed at the meeting or before. Plan Sponsors can do that through the meeting invite, or may want to include that information in the agenda. BCG Benefits offers sample agendas to our clients.
These articles are prepared for general purposes and are not intended to provide advice or encourage specific behavior. Before taking any action, Advisors and Plan Sponsors should consult with their compliance, finance and legal teams.
Before leaping into the unknown, we recommend a thorough examination of your plan. Because we are experts in the field, we know the marketplace and know what your existing vendor is capable of offering. Through this examination, we can help you optimize the service you receive.get xpress proposal