Many organizations have either already terminated their defined benefit (DB) plans or are thinking about it, in order to offload the financial and regulatory risks these programs pose. But plan sponsors should think carefully about how their decision might affect their workers' commitment and productivity – and ultimately their organization's success.
To answer those and other retirement questions, Watson Wyatt set out to learn how DB and defined contribution (DC) plans affect employees' workforce behavior and decisions. Watson Wyatt's Retirement Attitude Survey (WWRAS) found that, while most workers value both types of plans very highly, workers with DB plans generally appreciate their retirement programs significantly more than those with only a DC plan. This was particularly the case for those with a hybrid pension plan. This analysis found that retirement plan generosity and effective communication strongly affect a plan's perceived value to employees. This has important implications for plan sponsors, since greater plan appreciation is strongly linked to employee commitment. In fact, we found that workers covered by a defined benefit plan express a very strong commitment to their current employer, while DC plan coverage has no effect on employee commitment. This is partly owing to a selection effect, whereby firms with DB plans tend to attract more committed workers. However, even after controlling for the selection effect, DB plans exert an independent effect on the likelihood that employees will stay with their employer.