Top of Mind

Items that Should be Banned from Employee Communications

Indulge me for a moment (because frankly, I could use a moment of escape, since as I write this, the power at my residence has been out for nearly six days!).  Let’s imagine that I am the “King of Employee Communications.”  As such, I therefore decree throughout the land that from now and forevermore the following items should never, ever appear in employee communications:  

  • Percentages — Which looks more understandable to you:  0.52% or $52 per $10,000? They are the same thing of course, but it is much easier to understand the dollar amount rather than the percentage.  So why use a percentage?  Even worse is when a communication refers to 0.52% as “52 basis points;” it’s highly unlikely that the majority of employees understand what that is.
  • Anything that resembles mathWith apologies to those math professors in my audience, most employees absolutely detest math.  They hated it in school and they hate it now.  Heck, even employees who are required to use math in their jobs despise reading about math.  So please, save the calculations for committee presentations.
  • Jargon — Employees are not employee benefit experts, but sometimes it takes an expert to decipher employee communications.  For example, most retirement plan participants barely know that they pay fees, so attempting to use fee-related terms, such as “expense ratios” or “revenue sharing” is ridiculous.  Here’s a simple tip to avoid jargon: have an employee with zero knowledge of the subject matter read a draft, and have him or her mark each word that he/she did not completely comprehend.  Then proceed to remove every one of those words from your final communication!

Okay, so I am far from being the “King of Employee Communications;” however, nearly every time I see a retirement plan communication to participants, something is included that is all but guaranteed to ensure participants will either immediately stop reading or otherwise tune out the message.  While my expertise is in retirement plans, I believe that avoiding the items listed above is beneficial for employee communications in general.

Any additional items you wish to ban?  Drop me a note on Twitteror at  

Note: This feature is to provide general information only, does not constitute legal advice, and cannot be used or substituted for legal or tax advice.

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