Study Reveals Best Practices for Participant Communications

Advisers can help with best practices as plan sponsors are increasingly taking it upon themselves to devise their own communication strategies to engage their participants.

Plan sponsors are increasingly taking it upon themselves to devise their own communication strategies to engage their participants in financial as well as health wellness, according to the inaugural WorkPlace Exchange (WPE) report from Corporate Insight.

This study is based on actual materials submitted for review from sponsors whose plan size was at least $1 billion in assets, and some of the best practices shown realized increased enrollment, deferral rates and dialogue.

Video is a preferred format for an introduction to topics such as benefits and retirement plans due to the succinct nature in which topics can be covered, Corporate Insight says. The most impressive piece it found was an animation that provides a full view of a broad benefits program for new employees in less than four minutes. “The employer clearly recognized potential of multimedia, which allowed it to introduce concepts like HSAs and enrolling in their retirement plan, but not go in nearly as much depth as is covered in forms and other hard copy versions that the video is meant to supplement,” Corporate Insight says.

The most logical social media property to start with is Facebook, given the varied nature of conversation on it and its overall reach compared to other social media, according to the report. One plan launched its Facebook page 18 months ago, and realized a 50% increase in communications between followers and the plan, as well as an uptick in enrollment and deferral rates. “Facebook allows plans to build a dialogue with participants and employees in a centralized place. It also allows for the attachment of materials that may be helpful to those following the plan,” Corporate Insight says.

Another firm sent an automatic enrollment mailer to participants who were not enrolled in the plan. The mailer included a clear explanation for the outreach—the recipient is targeted because they are not enrolled in the plan. This outreach resulted in 82% of participants enrolling in the plan and remaining; 93% of millennial participants remained. In addition, hourly employee participation increased form 50% to 92%.

Traditional forms of communications such as newsletters, mailers and checklists can still be highly effective if they are visually appealing, well organized and clearly communicated.

In addition, a checklist for plan sponsors provided by one respondent helps keep its plan organized and compliant. The checklist helps identify risks and enables assignment of oversight accordingly, as well as helps protect against lawsuits. The checklist provided offers 45 tests across seven categories, including nondiscrimination tests and record retention requirements.