Company Uses ‘Holistic’ Approach to Improve 401(k) Participation


Increasing 401(k) plan participation rates is high on many companies’ priority lists, but what are the most effective tactics?


For Leviton, a privately held manufacturer of electrical wiring equipment, the answer is holistic education, as well as auto and advice features. The company, which has 2,400 U.S. employees, boasts an 84% participation rate in its 401(k) plan.

Fran Ruderman, Leviton’s vice president of human resources, told PLANADVISER the company uses automatic enrollment, automatic increase and Advice Access—a tool from Bank of America Merrill Lynch that offers saving and investment advice based on an individual’s personal situation and life stage.

Leviton adopted auto enrollment in 2007, Advice Access in 2009 and began auto increase at the beginning of this year. The company’s 401(k) match starts at 3% with an automatic increase of 1% per year.

“The fact that auto enrollment and auto increase was available was great,” Ruderman said. “We’re a big proponent [of] employee education, information and accountability.”

According to Bank of America Merrill Lynch’s 401(k) Contribution Activities Scorecard, plan sponsors using auto enrollment, auto increase and Advice Access had a 76% participation rate on average in March 2012 and March 2011. Plans that did not use these services showed a 48% participation rate in March 2011 and a 50% rate the following year.

Kevin Crain, head of institutional retirement and benefit services for Bank of America Merrill Lynch, said he foresees an increase in plan sponsors implementing auto and advice tools together—generally with auto enrollment first, followed by auto increase and advice tools. “So I think that’s kind of the order we normally see … and then you’ve really got a complete picture,” he said. 



Leviton’s Advice Access numbers continue to climb, going from 53 employees enrolled as of January 2010, to 480 enrolled as of March 2012, Ruderman said.

The company started a health care wellness program in 2007, but Ruderman said company officials wanted to take things a step further by adding a retirement wellness component in 2008. They partnered with Bank of America Merrill Lynch for an education program that emphasized the importance of continuing 401(k) contributions during a period of economic uncertainty.

“We just continued on that campaign since then,” Ruderman said. “We’re just continuing on the whole aspect of driving holistic wellness.”

The company strives to give employees a healthier lifestyle by organizing weight loss contests, Zumba classes and even adding a tranquility room. The facility has also been measured so employees can track the distance they walk during their lunch break.  

In addition, Leviton has a program that allows employees to save on health premiums by exhibiting healthy behavior.

As for the future, Ruderman said the company is always happy to explore new retirement features. “I’d be happy to be a guinea pig,” she said. “Anything we can do to help an individual become a smarter saver and take accountability for their retirement future. We just want to keep educating.”