The furor over cash balance plans at many companies that have converted, or are planning to convert, from defined benefit plans has at least partly dispelled the belief that employees don't appreciate a defined benefit plan.
The furious debate about IBM's conversion to a cash balance plan -- which took place on a Web site started by an IBM employee -- and the lawsuits filed against other companies by older employees who believe they have been disadvantaged in the conversion to cash balance plans, show that older employees, at least, are vitally interested in the defined benefit plan.
And that's remarkable, considering that most employers traditionally have provided no information about the defined benefit plan other than cryptic annual statements of benefits, within which any mention of the defined benefit plan is typically buried, and the equally cryptic summary plan description form.
Companies hoping their employees' ignorance about the defined benefit plan will facilitate a switch to a cash balance plan must now think otherwise. They had better communicate to all employees, but especially older ones, why they are making the switch, whom it will benefit and whom it will hurt, and what the companies plan to do to help those who will be hurt.