The post below is a guest blog from Chris Tutino who serves as Communications Specialist for CAI’s employee benefits partner Hill, Chesson & Woody.
On October 13, 2010, President Obama signed into law the Plain Writing Act, which says that all communications from the federal government must be clear, concise and well organized. That’s not bad guidance for all of us to follow – especially when it comes to communicating to our employees. In fact, data suggests that employee communications that are not easily understood can lead to distrust and possible legal ramifications, specifically around insurance communications.
In an Employee Benefits News online story, Deborah Bosley, an associate professor of English and plain language expert at UNC Charlotte , was interviewed and provided four reasons to write communication materials in plain language:
- According to a Stanford University study, when people can’t understand complex information, they lose respect for the company.
- When information is difficult to understand, they don’t trust the company.
- There’s a direct correlation between the corporate reputation and how well employees understand information relayed to them — a company that commits itself to writing employee benefits in plain language will garner more trust from its employees, saving time and money.
- Vital communications that are not written in plain language can open your company up to legal struggles. Bosley specifically mentioned two lawsuits where she was an expert witness on plain language that surrounded summary plan descriptions.
It’s probably safe to say that we’ve all used big words to try to impress someone…an employer, significant other or teacher. But when we’re talking about key information that is crucial to an employee making a year-long decision on benefits, we should ensure that what we’re communicating is easy to read and understand. By doing so, it can save time, our reputations and build trust.