PSNC 2017: How Plan Sponsors Can Reach Out Digitally When Participants Are Inaccessible

A Plan Sponsor of the Year discusses how to use technology to communicate with hard-to-access employees.

Day Two of the 2017 PLANSPONSOR National Conference, in Washington, D.C., consisted of multiple key speakers plus focused sessions that attendees chose according to their interests.
Tanya Barrett, executive director, human resources (HR), at Hoag Hospital, a 2017 Plan Sponsor of the Year in the 403(b) category, spoke about the strategies the hospital uses to reach its work force, which has the wide-ranging educational backgrounds and income levels typical of a hospital, has an average age of 40 and average tenure of eight years, and is 75% female.

The 401(k) plan for this employer achieved 95.9% participation and average deferral rate of 8%, while 80% of its staff have no personal work computer. In other words, the employees cannot easily receive retirement plan communications.
For instance, Barrett said, “The computer that many employees have access to is used for patient charting. Because of this, we cannot communicate to these employees easily, so we’ve turned to unique methods of communication.”
Panelist Matthew McOsker, vice president, senior product development manager digital for T. Rowe Price Retirement Plan Services, said that hospitals, like retail establishments and restaurants, are the organizations that use digital communications most frequently. “We have a type of communication evolution going on now, with many more digital tools in our toolboxes. Companies have been building infrastructure for visibility on phones, and that infrastructure can be leveraged easily.”
Barrett said Hoag has no specific digital strategy, yet it clearly uses technology to reach that 80% of employees without computers. “Our communications are consistent, and they are baked into the culture of the organization.”

Hoag’s methods are varied. It sends email to employees both at home and at work. It offers retirement communications on television monitors in the lunchroom, in flyers it creates, and in informational newsletters on its intranet. Managers speak with employees about the retirement plan at the end of shifts; they also call them, using specific phone messaging. Additionally, the hospital has provider representatives on-site for employee orientations and on a quarterly basis.

According to McOsker, there is plenty of digital innovation occurring. For instance, T. Rowe Price is now in production with a product called Smart Video. An employee’s key data will be pulled into a program that creates a personalized video. “Those who have used Smart Video have been motivated to take action from it.

“We are always trying new things,” he noted. “Another strategy is to target employees on Facebook using AdView targeting. For instance, we can see how many employees have self-identified as an employee, and we can contact them via social media.”